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Pompeo to deliver speech in Georgia ahead of Senate runoffs

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will deliver a speech on the national security threat posed by China at Georgia Tech ahead of two critical Senate runoff elections that will determine the balance of power in the upper chamber.

Pompeo’s remarks, set for Wednesday, will address “the China challenge to U.S. national security and academic freedom,” according to the State Department. 

It’s not unusual for secretaries of State to speak to domestic audiences, though the timing and location of Pompeo’s remarks are likely to raise questions about whether the nation’s top diplomat is engaging in partisan political activities. 

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) is facing off against Democrat Jon Ossoff in one of the Jan. 5 runoffs, while Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) is slated to go up against Democrat Raphael Warnock in the other race.

Republicans are currently set to enter 2021 with 50 seats in the Senate to Democrats’ 48. If Ossoff and Warnock prevail in their bids to oust Georgia’s two Republican senators, it would effectively give Democrats a controlling vote in the upper chamber, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote once she takes office in January.

Pompeo, who is seen as a potential contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has faced criticism in the past for allegedly intermingling official duties and engagements with partisan politics. 

He taped a video address for the Republican National Convention during a trip to Israel in August, prompting accusations from congressional Democrats that Pompeo’s actions may have violated a federal law prohibiting executive branch employees from participating in political activities.

Pompeo also raised eyebrows in September when he traveled to Wisconsin, a key battleground state in the presidential race, to address Republican state legislators on the threat posed by Chinese interference in state governments. 

The State Department defended the speech as part of Pompeo’s official responsibilities, though Democrats denounced it as a thinly veiled campaign event for President Trump.

Tags David Perdue Diplomacy Donald Trump Georgia politics Georgia Senate runoffs Hatch Act Jon Ossoff Kelly Loeffler Mike Pompeo State Department

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