Fox News anchor Chris Wallace remarked late Tuesday that the Republican National Convention which in its second night made the White House its center stage has “completely blown away” barriers between political and professional government activity.
Ahead of the convention, there had been significant controversy about whether or not the RNC could be held at the White House given restrictions the Hatch Act places on federal employees to conduct political activity at work.
“There was an uproar in Washington,” Wallace said, noting the reactions of prominent Republican lawmakers who had condemned the proposition that Trump might deliver convention remarks — an activity with clearly personal political objectives– from White House grounds.
“That barrier was completely blown away tonight, for good or for ill,” Wallace said.
First Lady Melania Trump vouched for her husband from the newly-renovated Rose Garden.
As President, Trump conducted a pardon ceremony for convicted bank robber turned activist Jon Ponder that aired during the convention for his bid as a presidential candidate. The move squarely fits the bill for the kind of barrier-breaking that Wallace spoke about and that was also reported last night by TPM.
While both the President and Vice President are omitted from provisions in the Hatch Act that bar government employees from participating in certain kinds of political activity at work, other government employees are not exempt from the rule.
Wallace argued that the “most controversial of all” were remarks made by Secretary of state Mike Pompeo who made “a political speech from a diplomatic hot-spot in Jerusalem.”
Wallace said that the move by Pompeo was unprecedented, adding that the State Department has established policy to prevent the muddling of politics and diplomacy.
The Washington Post noted that former Bush administration Secretary of State, Colin Powell declined to attend the RNC while he served in that role in 2004, saying that as secretary of state he was “obliged not to participate in any way, shape, fashion or form in parochial, political debates.”
“I have to take no sides in the matter,” Powell added at the time.
The State Department has defended Pompeo’s move however, claiming that the official was just speaking in his “personal capacity.”
“I don’t know what personal capacity a secretary of state has,” Wallace said.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, who is also the House Foreign Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair, issued a statement Tuesday calling for an investigation into the issue and saying that the American people “deserve a full investigation.”
“People can think it’s a big deal, they can think it’s a little deal. But all of this has never happened before. And it’s worth noting,” Wallace said.
Correction: This post originally reported that Jon Ponder was part of the naturalization ceremony. He was pardoned by Trump during the RNC broadcast.