A House committee announced Tuesday that it will be investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo due to a speech he’ll be giving at the Republican National Convention in direct violation of his own guidance.
Joaquin Castro, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, sent Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun a letter on Pompeo’s “highly unusual” and “likely unprecedented” decision.
“According to documents obtained by the Foreign Affairs Committee, it is readily apparent that the Secretary’s choice to speak at a political convention may violate the Hatch Act, governmentwide regulations implementing that Act, and State Department policies, as described in guidance from the Office of the Legal Adviser,” Castro wrote.
Funnily enough, the State Department itself pointed out those possible violations in a cable sent to employees last month warning them not to take public sides in the presidential election.
“It is important to remember that in order to avoid any confusion or misperception in this regard, the department’s longstanding policy is that U.S. citizen employees and family members may not engage in partisan political activity while posted or on TDY abroad, even on personal time,” the cable said, above Pompeo’s signature.
“Similarly, presidential and political appointees and career (senior executives) are subject to significant restrictions on their political activity; they may not engage in any partisan political activity in concert with a partisan campaign, political party, or partisan political group, even on personal time and outside of the federal workplace,” it continued.
The department has argued that Pompeo will be addressing the convention in his “personal capacity” and will not tout his achievements as secretary of state.
For Castro, the defense doesn’t pass muster.
“Senate-confirmed political appointees such as Secretary Pompeo ‘may not even attend a political party convention or convention-related event,'” he said, quoting a December 2019 memo from the State Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser. “It appears incontrovertible that the Secretary’s speech to the RNC violates this prohibition.”
Castro also pointed out that Pompeo was on official travel when he prerecorded his RNC speech from Jerusalem, saying that he is in further violation of the Foreign Affairs Manual for engaging in partisan politics abroad.
The Jerusalem setting may add still another political patina atop the speech: the Trump administration frequently trumpets its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Castro then listed his demands, including background on the “legal advice” Pompeo got clearing him to make the speech and the use of any government resources in its production. He also requested information getting at whether Pompeo made the Jerusalem trip specially to serve as a backdrop for the speech, or if he altered his itinerary to line it up.
Castro set a due date of September 1 for answers to his questions and a State Department briefing, and September 10 for related documents.
According to the Associated Press, Pompeo’s speech will tout President Donald Trump’s accomplishments in the Middle East and promotion of his “America First” policy.
“Looking forward to sharing with you how my family is more SAFE and more SECURE because of President Trump,” Pompeo tweeted on Sunday. “See you all on Tuesday night!”
Read Castro’s letter here: