Ethics officials are probing yet another potential violation from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, this time in the speech he gave to the Republican National Convention in August during a diplomatic trip to the Middle East.
The Office of Special Counsel has opened a case file on Pompeo’s speech, the chairs of the House Foreign Affairs and Appropriations committees said in a statement.
“As we get closer to both this year’s election and his own inevitable return to electoral politics, Mike Pompeo has grown even more brazen in misusing the State Department and the taxpayer dollars that fund it as vehicles for the Administration’s, and his own, political ambitions,” said the chairs, Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Nita Lowey (D-NY), in a statement.
OSC investigates the use executive branch offices for politics, which is prohibited under a law known as the Hatch Act. Pompeo’s speech, from Jerusalem, was delivered virtually to a White House-based Republican National Convention.
A state department spokesperson called the Hatch Act request a “political stunt by House Democrats eight days before an election” and said they believed OSC would dismiss the complaint.
Recently, OSC confirmed to a watchdog group that it was also looking into whether Pompeo had violated the Hatch Act on another occasion — an interview in which the secretary claimed that the department had possession of unreleased emails by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and that “I certainly think there’ll be more to see before the election.”
The State Department did not provide comment on the probe Monday. But Pompeo defended the speech last month, saying that “all I can say in my role as secretary of state is the State Department reviewed this, it was lawful.”
The speech came in the middle of a multi-day, multi-country diplomatic trip through the Middle East.
Speaking to the Republican Party with the Western Wall and Dome of the Rock in the background, Pompeo introduced himself without using his official title, instead opting for a familiar workaround for Trump administration officials at this year’s GOP convention.
“I have a big job,” the secretary said before a corny pause. “…as Susan’s husband and Nick’s dad.”
Pompeo’s speech from Jerusalem violated his own reminder to State Department employees about the Hatch Act, the Associated Press reported at the time.
“[T]he department’s longstanding policy is that U.S. citizen employees and family members may not engage in partisan political activity while posted or on [temporary duty] abroad, even on personal time,” he’d written in July to department staff in July.
Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, which wrote the complaint that led to the other Hatch Act probe into Pompeo’s behavior, emphasized last week that the Trump administration’s ethics violations — including acts that have been found to have violated the Hatch Act — have been fast, furious, and sustained.
“Trump administration officials continue to run roughshod over the 81 year old statute to boost President Trump’s electoral prospects even as Americans are already voting,” a report from the group read.
This post has been updated.