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Oversight Hearing on State Department IG

The Oversight Committee is currently holding a hearing, “Assessing the State Department Inspector General.” Inspector General Howard J. Krongard will testify. On September 28th, Chairman Henry Waxman wrote to Krongard on allegations that he was using intimidation of employees to block the Committee’s investigation of issues in Iraq, and on October 12th Chairman Waxman was joined by several other Chairmen in a letter to Secretary Rice about endemic corruption in Iraq and the refusal of State Department officials to answer basic questions about the impact of corruption within the Maliki government on the chances of success in Iraq.

Watch the hearing live via committee webcast or on C Span 3.

Chairman Henry Waxman gives opening remarks:

Chairman Waxman:
“The Justice Department sought Mr. Krongard's cooperation as it investigated reports that a large private security contractor was smuggling weapons into Iraq. Instead of cooperating, Mr. Krongard apparently created a series of obstacles to the inquiry. One of Mr. Krongard's aides told our Committee that ‘there was absolutely no justifiable investigative, management… or any kind of reason for us to stop that investigation.’ The Justice Department shares that view…”

Chairman Henry Waxman questions Krongard:

Chairman Waxman: “Well your own investigators had a different view. This is how one of your investigators responded to the news that you had refused the Justice Department request [on the US Embassy]: ‘Wow, as we all know, this is not the normal and proper procedure. When looking at the IG Act, DOJ and PCIE guidelines, and the OIG community as a whole, we are supposed to work under the direction of the USAO DOJ, I am stunned. I hope you documented the orders that were provided to you, wow.’ In fact the Committee has identified at least three other occasions in which the Justice Department came back to you and asked for assistance on this investigation… in all of these cases you refused their requests…”

Rep. Eilijah Cummings questions Krongard on evidence that his brother is on the advisory board of Blackwater, which Krongard disputes but agrees would call for his recusal on Blackwater if true:

Rep. Cummings: “This is a September 5th email that Eric Prince sent to your brother. It says, quote: ‘Welcome and thank you for accepting the invitation to be a member of the board.’ My question is this: did you know that your brother, Buzzy Krongard, was on Blackwater’s advisory board?”
Krongard: “Sir, I dispute that, as far as I know that is not correct… I don’t see anything in here that suggests my brother accepted or attended, and as far as I know he did neither.”

Extended transcript:

Rep. Cummings: “This is a September 5th email that Eric Prince sent to your brother. It says, quote: ‘Welcome and thank you for accepting the invitation to be a member of the board.’ My question is this: did you know that your brother, Buzzy Krongard, was on Blackwater’s advisory board?”
Krongard: “Sir, I dispute that, as far as I know that is not correct. This is, you asked me to comment on this letter. Sir, my brother served honorably as a captain in the United States Marine Corps. He served as the Executive Director of the CIA. He has been involved in a lot of activities involving security. So it’s no surprise that someone like Erik Prince would invite him to continue to support ‘security, peace, and freedom.’ There is nothing in here that suggests that my brohter accepted this July 26th invitation, what you have now shown me is an email form Erik Prince to a large number of people that I assume were all people who received this. I don’t see anything in here that suggests my brother accepted or attended, and as far as I know he did neither.”
Rep. Cummings: “Well let me go on, then, because I do think the letter indicates that he did accept. But Mr. Krongard, this is one of the most high profile issues facing the State Department, and your testimony today is that you didn’t know your own brother is on the Blackwater board. I find that very difficult to believe — let me ask you this, Mr. Krongard, did you know where your brother is this week, do you know?”
Krongard: “No sir, I don’t.”
Rep. Cummings: “According to this email, Mr. Prince invited your brother to be at a board meeting to discuss strategic planning. And this meeting is taking place right now, in Williamsburg, Virginia, this week as we speak. Staff contacted the hotel to speak to your brother and the hotel confirmed that he was scheduled to be there. Did you know that?”
Krongard: “No sir, I did not.”
Rep. Cummings: “And so, if your brother is a board member, which you said he’s not, but if he is — since I know you’re sensitive to conflict — would you agree that you should recuse yourself of anything dealing with Blackwater investigations?”
Krongard: “Yes, sir. And that was why — first of all, by the nature of my brother’s work, you should understand that we have never discussed his work or my work, so I had no reason to even think that he had any involvement with Blackwater. But, when these things surfaced, I called him and I asked him directly, he has told me he does have any involvement, he does not have any financial interest. If you’re telling me he does absolutely I would recuse myself.”
Rep. Cummings: “You will recuse yourself?”
Krongard: “Absolutely.”
Rep. Cummings: “Immediately?”
Krongard: “Absolutely.”

TPMMuckraker has confirmed that A.B. “Buzzy” Krongard, brother of State Department Inspector General Howard “Cookie” Krongard, is a member of Blackwater’s advisory board.

Rep. John Yarmuth (KY-03) and Chairman Waxman question Krongard about allegations that he interfered with an on-going investigation into the conduct of Kenneth Tomlinson, the head of Voice of America and a close associate of Karl Rove, by passing information about the inquiry to Mr. Tomlinson:

Chairman Waxman: “I’m confused because when Mr. Shays asked you whether you had any communications with Mr. Tomlinson or others that would get to him you said ‘no, absolutely not,’ and now it turns out you directed a fax which had an attachment to it which you tried to pull back afterwards — isn’t that a communication?”
Krongard: “There’s a great difference in my mind, between the Executive Director, Mr. Conniff, and Mr. Tomlinson, I answered faithfully the question that I did not provide anything to Mr. Tomlinson..”
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