Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fired back at MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday morning after the veteran foreign correspondent expressed skepticism over his scheduled speech in Georgia later in the day.
Pompeo’s speech in the battleground state comes just weeks before the Georgia Senate runoff elections that will determine the balance of the Senate.
In a notice issued by the State Department, Pompeo’s address to Georgia Tech will focus “on the China challenge to U.S. national security and academic freedom.” The announcement of the secretary of state’s scheduled speech in Georgia was issued the same day that the Trump administration sanctioned Chinese officials over arrests of pro-democracy politicians and activists in Hong Kong.
Pompeo’s speech in Georgia drew scrutiny as critics argued that it adds to the plethora of potential Hatch Act violations that the secretary of state has committed in the past year.
In an interview on “The Guy Benson Show” Monday, Pompeo insisted his scheduled speech in Georgia would be an important foreign policy address as he threw his predecessors under the bus.
“I promise you, when Secretary (John) Kerry traveled to Massachusetts or Secretary (Hillary) Clinton traveled to New York, those were coastal elite states. Those were all fine for secretaries to travel to,” Pompeo said on Monday.
Pompeo then snarked that he believes the flack he’s getting for his speech in Georgia is unfair because he supposedly will simply talk about foreign policy.
“When Mike Pompeo wanted to travel to Georgia, somehow that’s incomprehensible that foreign policy could matter to an enormously capable research institution like Georgia Tech, where I’m going to go speak about that very set of issues, the fact that in America’s research educational institutions today, the Chinese Communist Party is aiming to lobby, to influence, and to steal,” Pompeo said on Monday.
A day later, MSNBC anchor Andrew Mitchell expressed her bewilderment over Pompeo’s rationale for his speech in Georgia, given how the Senate runoff elections are just weeks away.
.@SecPompeo to speak in Georgia ahead of Senate runoffs. Political? He says “When Sec. Kerry traveled to Massachusetts or Sec. Clinton traveled to NY those were coastal elite states. Those were all fine for secretaries to travel to” Huh? That’s where their families lived
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) December 9, 2020
The next morning, Pompeo hit back at Mitchell in another tweet by griping that MSNBC raised concerns over his previous visits to his home state of Kansas.
Andrea – Do some reporting. When I went home to Kansas to see family, your network was howling saying I was violating the Hatch Act. The claims were found to be bogus. This trip was planned long before the Georgia runoff. Do some reporting. https://t.co/9fHEjUzvrl
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) December 9, 2020
It’s unclear which visits to Kansas the secretary of state is referring to in the tweet, but late last year rumors began swirling that Pompeo would enter the Kansas Senate race as his trips to his home state have been official visits paid for by the State Department.
Democrats filed a complaint that alleged Pompeo violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits political activities while acting in an official capacity. Pompeo dismissed the complaint as “silliness” from “left-coast, elitist liberalism” in an interview with a Kansas-based radio station.
Pompeo has faced backlash in the past year for potential violations of the Hatch Act, which included delivering taped remarks from Jerusalem during this year’s Republican National Convention.
Pompeo and Mitchell also have a history of butting heads.
In January, Pompeo clashed with Mitchell during a press briefing over President Trump’s threats to attack cultural sites in Iran following the targeted killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
"Let me tell you who has done damage to the Persian culture.
It's not the United States of America.
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) January 7, 2020