American Oversight sued the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department on Friday for records of complaints filed by employees concerning the conduct of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to shed light on potentially abusive conduct toward staff and journalists.
NBC’s Richard Engel reported in the fall of 2019 that according to former senior intelligence officials, Pompeo was “a bully to subordinates” while serving as CIA director. His behavior and “fits of ‘anger’” had even driven some employees “to quit or seek new assignments.” American Oversight filed Freedom of Information Act requests for records of and communications about any whistleblower complaints related to Pompeo’s reported conduct. The agencies’ failure to provide records in response led to today’s lawsuit.
As early as November 2018, reports began to surface of Pompeo’s berating of federal employees and retaliation against reporters for unflattering coverage. Last month, NPR reported that All Things Considered host Mary Louise Kelly had been called to a private meeting with Pompeo following an interview about Iran-U.S. tensions and the secretary’s involvement in the Ukraine scandal. There, Pompeo shouted, cursed and challenged Kelly to identify Ukraine on a blank map, then released a statement calling her a liar and claiming she misidentified Ukraine’s location.
The State Department subsequently dropped NPR’s Michele Keleman from Pompeo’s recent trip to Europe. The secretary later defended that decision by saying it sent “a perfect message about press freedoms” to the world. President Donald Trump praised Pompeo’s interactions during a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying, “I think you did a good job on her.”
“Mike Pompeo bullies reporters, punishes people who ask tough questions, and throws tantrums when he doesn’t get his way,” said Austin Evers, executive director at American Oversight. “If the nation’s chief diplomat is willing to act like a child in front of the press, the public deserves to know how he treats his staff in private.”
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