Emails show Pompeos knew their requests of State Dept. staff were personal tasks

2020-09-13 17:31:14

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s wife wanted senior State Department staff to work during the week of Christmas to complete their personal holiday cards, requesting they keep the circle small because of the private nature of the assignment, emails obtained by McClatchy show.

Susan Pompeo wrote to Toni Porter, a longtime confidante and aide to the secretary from his days as a Kansas congressman, asking who would be in the office that week to help with the cards.

“I see that you are out of the office all next week,” she wrote to Porter on Dec. 19, 2019, from a personal email account. “Do you know, is Joe also out? I’m wondering if we are sending the last of our personal cards out, who will be there to help me. Mike will not want to go outside you and Joe for this assistance.”

Porter, a State Department employee who serves as an adviser to the secretary, forwarded the email to Lisa Kenna, executive secretary at the State Department and a career member of the Foreign Service. Kenna volunteered to assist the Pompeos.

“I’d worry about asking others for personal things,” Kenna wrote Porter.

The exchange is the first publication of emails documenting the Pompeos directing State Department employees to conduct their personal business on government time, the topic of an ongoing inquiry by the State Department inspector general’s office.

While that inquiry was being conducted, Secretary Pompeo asked President Donald Trump to fire State Department Inspector General Steve Linick. He did so on May 15.

Both Kenna and Porter testified behind closed doors to the House Foreign Affairs Committee last month and were asked about the Pompeos’ potential misuse of government resources for personal business.

In Porter’s testimony to the House, which published a transcript of the hearing on Friday, she described discomfort at being asked to handle the holiday cards for the Pompeos. She named Joe Semrad, assistant to the secretary, as an official who filled in for her when she was unavailable to complete the Pompeos’ personal requests.

Porter described her job at the State Department as handling projects of special importance to the secretary. In addition to Pompeo, Porter said she receives orders from the secretary’s wife through a private email address.

Kenna was repeatedly pressed during her testimony to describe any instances in which senior State Department staff were asked to perform tasks for the secretary’s wife. She only mentioned staffing for Mrs. Pompeo’s travels abroad.

Porter served as Pompeo’s Wichita-based district director when he was a congressman.

She moved to Washington when Pompeo was tapped to lead the CIA, serving as his chief of protocol, and followed him to the State Department.

Kenna is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and has previously held diplomatic positions in Jordan, Egypt and Pakistan. She has served as the executive secretary in the Office of the Secretary since 2017 before Pompeo was appointed secretary of State.

Porter did not return a phone call requesting comment Sunday evening.

A State Department spokesperson, asked for comment on the emails, referred McClatchy to a statement issued Friday after the release of Porter’s testimony.

“It is not a revelation that Mrs. Pompeo, like all the spouses of our dedicated diplomats, is a tremendous force multiplier for our diplomatic mission,” the statement said. “We are beyond proud and honored to have Mrs. Pompeo, and all diplomatic spouses, give so much time, voluntarily, to ensure we here at State are One Team with One Mission. All her service is not only legal, but admirable.”

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