House panel to investigate Pompeo’s GOP convention speech
A House Democrat announced Tuesday that he is launching an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s expected speech to the Republican National Convention, raising concerns that the move is an illegal violation of the Hatch Act and a breach of State Department regulations.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs panel’s subcommittee on oversight and investigations, raised his concerns in a letter to Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun and requested information on the secretary’s planned remarks.
Pompeo is coming under scrutiny for taking time during official diplomatic travel in the Middle East to record remarks to be played at the GOP convention Tuesday night.
The secretary is believed to have recorded remarks from Jerusalem, further drawing criticism that the nation’s top diplomat was using the Holy City as a prop for partisan and political gain.
The Hatch Act prohibits federal officials from participating in political activity while on official duty. The State Department has said that Pompeo is addressing the convention in his personal capacity and no department resources were used for preparing or delivering the remarks.
But Castro has said the secretary’s actions directly violate his instructions that State Department officials, specifically presidential and political appointees, are barred from engaging in political partisan activities abroad that are related to the U.S. elections.
Those instructions were laid out in two memos and obtained by the Foreign Affairs Committee. The first memo appears to be from December 2019 from the Office of the Legal Adviser and specifically states and highlights in bold and italics that “Senate-confirmed Presidential appointees may not even attend a political party convention or convention-related event.”
A second memo, summarizing and reiterating these points, was sent in July and signed by Pompeo.
“It’s absolutely unacceptable that a sitting U.S. Secretary of State, America’s top diplomat, would use official taxpayer-funded business to participate in a political party convention, particularly after the State Department published guidance that explicitly prohibits such activity,” Castro wrote in his letter to Biegun. “This action is part of a pattern of politicization of U.S foreign policy, for which President Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives, that undermines America’s standing in the world. The American people deserve a full investigation.”
Castro gave Biegun a Sept. 1 deadline to submit answers in writing concerning whether any State Department resources were used in facilitating the secretary’s recorded remarks and a Sept. 10 deadline to produce any related documents and receipts.
The Democratic lawmaker further asked Biegun whether the secretary’s speech drew concern from Israeli officials.
McClatchy reported that at least two Israeli officials expressed concern over Pompeo’s participation in the convention from Jerusalem, saying that it could contribute to a growing political divide over Israel in the U.S.