U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a recorded address to the Republican National Convention from Jerusalem, drawing calls from Democrats for an investigation into what they called “highly unusual” participation in a partisan event.
Pompeo is traveling in the Middle East this week and made his first stop in Jerusalem. In his address, he praised the Trump administration’s foreign policy, citing Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, his negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, efforts to defeat the Islamic State group and opposing what Pompeo called China’s “predatory aggression.”
Before his remarks were played during Tuesday night’s convention broadcast, Pompeo’s remarks drew the attention of Democrats, including Congressman Joaquin Castro, who called for an investigation.
Castro, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, sent a letter to Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun asking for written answers to his questions and a briefing with the State Department by September 1.
“It is highly unusual, and likely unprecedented, for a sitting Secretary of State to speak at a partisan convention for either of the political parties,” Castro said. “It appears that it may also be illegal.”
Castro said he wants to know what State Department resources may have been used to organize the address, whether any department employees were involved, and if the Trump campaign, Republican party or other outside organization would be covering any of the costs of Pompeo’s travel to Israel.
“Secretary Pompeo was on official travel –funded on an apolitical basis by every American taxpayer –when the speech was pre-recorded and likely will be on official business when it will be shown at the RNC,” Castro wrote.
Pompeo was in Bahrain on the latest leg of his trip at the time the video was broadcast. A State Department official told a reporter traveling with Pompeo that the diplomat was speaking in his personal capacity and that no department personnel or resources were involved.
Pompeo sent a cable to department staff last month calling attention to rules against engaging in political activities.
“As the 2020 general election draws near, all Department employees are reminded to review and comply with the restrictions on political activities that apply to Department employees,” the memo says. “As Deputy Secretary Biegun noted in his February 18, 2020, email, in its global engagements the Department proudly showcases the United States democratic process. It is important that the Department’s employees do not improperly engage the Department of State in the political process, and that they adhere to the Hatch Act and Department policies in their own political activities.”
The cable outlines acceptable practices, such as voting in elections, donating to a political campaign and expressing opinions about policies and issues in a non-partisan context.
Prohibited acts include personal fundraising for a candidate, using one’s official position for partisan political purposes, and engaging in partisan political activity while on duty or in the workplace.