Menendez seeks probe into if Pompeo violated Hatch Act

Menendez seeks probe into if Pompeo violated Hatch Act

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezMedia's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle Dem senators say Iran threat to embassies not mentioned in intelligence briefing Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers MORE (D-N.J.) is asking for a probe into whether Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump downplays seriousness of injuries in Iran attack after US soldiers treated for concussions The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions GOP rejects effort to compel documents on delayed Ukraine aid MORE violated a federal law on political activities with his recent trips to his home state of Kansas.

Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to the Office of Special Counsel’s Henry Kerner asking for the investigation.

“I ... ask that you review his travel and his interactions in Kansas closely, and determine whether any violations have occurred or additional guidance to the Department or the Secretary may be warranted,” Menendez wrote.

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“I also ask that you act promptly on your findings and report to my staff on any steps you are taking as well as any recommendations that you deem appropriate,” he added.

Menendez is asking for a probe into whether Pompeo, whom Senate Republicans have urged to run for Senate in Kansas, violated the Hatch Act, a law that places limits on the ability of federal officials to participate in political activities.

“Since March 2019, the Secretary has taken three official trips to Kansas, apparently at the expense of the Department of State. During the latest trip, from October 24 to 25, 2019, the Secretary visited the Wichita State University Tech National Center for Aviation Training, participated in a workforce development roundtable, visited Textron Aviation Longitude and Latitude Production, and met with students from Wichita State University,” Menendez wrote.

Menendez specifically highlighted an Office of Special Counsel opinion that found that “any action that can reasonably be construed as evidence that an individual is seeking support for or undertaking an initial ‘campaign’ to secure a nomination or election to office would be viewed as candidacy for purposes of the Hatch Act.”

National Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump admin releases trove of documents on Ukrainian military aid The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions What to watch for on Day 2 of Senate impeachment trial MORE (R-Ky.), have publicly said they would like Pompeo to run for the Senate. Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsSenate fails to get deal to speed up fight over impeachment rules Juan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump Senate GOP hopes to move new NAFTA deal before impeachment trial MORE (R-Kan.) is retiring after his current term.

Pompeo has publicly ruled out running for the Senate seat, but The Wall Street Journal reported that he met with billionaire Charles Koch last week while in Kansas to discuss the race.

“For months, public reports have persisted that the Secretary was considering running for U.S. Senate in Kansas. Many in Kansas perceive his appearances in the state to be a de facto campaign effort,” Menendez said.

He added that a Kansas City Star editorial urging Pompeo to "focus on your day job" or run for Senate "seems to indicate his actions are already being construed as evidence of a possible candidacy by members of the press and the public in Kansas."

“He appears frequently on TV and for interviews, and, as is true for many Secretaries of State, is known and recognized by the American public. Thus, it is even more crucial that he and the Department maintain a clear line between his actions as a federal employee and steward of the U.S. government, and any efforts that could be perceived as political in nature or laying the groundwork for potential campaign activity,” Menendez added.

Pompeo isn’t the first administration official to face accusations of violating the Hatch Act.

The Office of Special Counsel sent a report to President TrumpDonald John TrumpRouhani says Iran will never seek nuclear weapons Trump downplays seriousness of injuries in Iran attack after US soldiers treated for concussions Trump says Bloomberg is 'wasting his money' on 2020 campaign MORE earlier this month recommending that White House adviser Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayKellyanne Conway: Martin Luther King would oppose impeaching Trump George Conway on Trump adding Dershowitz, Starr to legal team: 'Hard to see how either could help' White House pushes back on Parnas allegations MORE be removed from her job after it said she repeatedly violated the Hatch Act.

It previously found her in violation for her comments on a 2017 U.S. Senate special election in Alabama, and it more recently found she violated the law with comments about 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.