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U.S. State Dept. says IG found U.S. arms sales to Saudi did not break law: official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A final report by the office of the State Department Acting Inspector General found Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s emergency certification on arms sales to Gulf Arab states including Saudi Arabia last year did not break the law, a senior department official said on Monday.

The official’s comments - made before the report was made public - came after President Donald Trump abruptly fired then-Inspector General Steve Linick, who was looking into Pompeo’s certification, in May. Linick was succeeded by Stephen Akard, who resigned from his post last week after recusing himself from the arms sales investigation.

The final report was completed by Akard’s deputy, Diana Shaw.

Linick was the fourth government inspector general ousted by the Republican president in recent months, raising concern among Democrats and some of his fellow Republicans in Congress about curtailment of oversight.

In a statement, Representative Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was concerned that the State Department had discussed the report before it was released.

“The people briefing the press were the subjects of the IG’s probe, not the report’s authors. This obvious pre-spin of the findings reeks of an attempt to distract and mislead,” Engel said.

Congressional committees have been investigating Linick’s firing.

The department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Inspector General’s final report found no wrongdoing in Pompeo’s execution of the administration’s decision to declare a “national emergency” to justify $8 billion in military sales to Saudi Arabia despite congressional objections.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Richard Pullin