State Department Inspector General Steve Linick on Wednesday gave Congress a package of conspiracy theories obtained by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that discredit key figures in the whistleblower-Ukraine scandal.
“The existence of this packet and its curious history raises profoundly troubling questions,” Rep. Jamie Raskin told reporters after a roughly one-hour meeting with the inspector general.
The Maryland Democrat was the only lawmaker who attended the staff briefing, emerging with the packet containing unclassified information — not yet publicly released — that raised more questions than answers.
However, Sen. Bob Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, who later reviewed the information, confirmed it contained “long debunked and false statements.”
It was addressed to Mr. Pompeo with “The White House” listed as the address, though Mr. Raskin acknowledged anyone could have written it.
Mr. Raskin noted that the documents did not look like White House stationery, but said Trump Hotel folders were used to hold the papers.
Former Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and the Biden family — main figures in the whistleblower complaint that sparked the impeachment investigation against the president — were mentioned in the conspiracies.
Mr. Raskin suggested that President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, should be asked if he had any information about the package.
“They don’t know where it came from. It is pretty clear whoever put it together was attempting to advance exactly the storyline that Mr. Giuliani would like to do,” he said.
“That’s my interpretation,” he added. “In other words, if you read the packet of information, it’s a series of somewhat hallucinatory propagandistic suggestions that are very consistent with the things Mr. Giuliani has been saying.”
But when pressed, Mr. Raskin backed away from directly pointing a finger at Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Pompeo, saying it was his interpretation.
The inspector general did not suggest that Mr. Pompeo had anything to do with the packet’s origins.
However, both Mr. Raskin and Mr. Menendez said the secretary’s role in disseminating the packet needed to be better understood.
Mr. Linick passed along the information to the FBI, though he did not say what the agency did with it, Mr. Raskin said.
Mr. Linick, who “sat on the information for months,” according to Mr. Raskin, also could still be investigating the matter.
Despite the number of wild questions the packet posed, Mr. Raskin didn’t believe the contents were urgent in light of Congress’ investigation into President Trump’s interactions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“From our perspective, all of it is completely and totally irrelevant. This is an irrelevant distraction from the matter at hand,” he said.
However, the chairs of House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees felt the packet was a graver issue, illustrating that the administration tried to “use the machinery of the State Department” for the president’s personal gain.
“These documents only underscore the need for the Trump Administration to comply with our requests for documents and interviews,” they wrote in a statement.
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