Pompeo speaks to GOP convention from Jerusalem in controversial speech
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday addressed the Republican National Convention from Jerusalem in a norm-breaking and possibly illegal speech to the political event.
The secretary made his remarks in a recorded video message, with the iconic and historic Old City in the background illuminated at dusk.
“I’m speaking to you from beautiful Jerusalem, looking out over the Old City. I have a big job, as Susan’s husband and Nick’s dad,” said the secretary, who is considered a possible 2024 presidential candidate. “Susan and Nick are more safe and their freedoms more secure because President Trump has put his America First Vision into action.”
The speech had come under intense scrutiny before it aired Tuesday evening, drawing backlash from Democrats and former State Department officials who accused the secretary of breaking long-standing norm, violating the Hatch Act — which prohibits federal officials from engaging in political activity while on official duty — and further using Jerusalem as a political prop.
The Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Tuesday launched an investigation over the legality of Pompeo’s remarks and what State Department resources and taxpayer funds were used surrounding the remarks.
The State Department said Pompeo recorded his remarks in his personal capacity and that no Department resources were used. He said he was speaking as a husband and father in an effort to distance from his position as a Cabinet member.
Pompeo’s remarks to the convention touched on many of the foreign policy priorities of the Trump administration but did not dramatically differ from statements and speeches Pompeo makes in his official capacity as secretary of State.
He attacked the Chinese Communist Party and called the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 the “China virus.” He praised the president over his North Korea policy, saying that Trump “lowered the temperature and, against all odds, got North Korean leadership to the table.”
“No nuclear tests, no long-range missile tests, and Americans held captive in North Korea came home to their families, as did the precious remains of scores of our heroes who fought in Korea,” he said.
Trump held three inconclusive meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and has failed to negotiate with the country to give up its nuclear weapons program.
Pompeo further highlighted the president’s actions in the Middle East, highlighting the strike that killed top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and the territorial defeat of ISIS in Iraq.
He was the third speaker Tuesday night to praise the president’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, following remarks by the president’s son Eric Trump and Jason Joyce, a Maine lobster fisherman.
“The President moved the U.S. Embassy to this very city of God, Jerusalem, the rightful capital of the Jewish homeland,” Pompeo said.
The secretary also congratulated the president on the recent brokering of diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Pompeo was in Israel, recording his remarks, while on a diplomatic mission building on that recent announcement.
Pompeo, who often cites a deep commitment to his evangelical Christian faith, closed his remarks with a religious invocation and highlighted the release of evangelical Pastor Andrew Brunson from a Turkish prison in 2018. Brunson was arrested as part of Turkey’s purge following a failed coup attempt in 2016.
“An American hostage imprisoned in Turkey for two years, Pastor Andrew Brunson, said upon his release that he survived his ordeal with these words of scripture — ‘Be faithful, endure and finish well.’ If we stay the course, we will,” Pompeo said.
“May God richly bless you and may God bless our great nation, the United States of America,” he added.