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Menendez seeks probe into if Pompeo violated Hatch Act

Menendez seeks probe into if Pompeo violated Hatch Act

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDemocrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Democratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Trump appointee sparks bipartisan furor for politicizing media agency MORE (D-N.J.) is asking for a probe into whether Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoO'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Israeli military instructed to prepare for Trump strike on Iran: report Biden's State Department picks are a diplomatic slam dunk 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 McConnellHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight MORE (R-Ky.), have publicly said they would like Pompeo to run for the Senate. Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsTrump's controversial Fed nominee stalled after Senate setback Business groups scramble to forge ties amid race for House Agriculture chair Republicans hold on to competitive Kansas House seat 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 TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE earlier this month recommending that White House adviser Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayWomen set to take key roles in Biden administration Lara Trump mulling 2022 Senate run in North Carolina: report Press: Where is Jim Baker when we need him? 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.