The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is investigating U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after the nation’s top diplomat gave a campaign-style speech during this year’s Republican National Convention (RNC) while on a government-funded diplomatic trip to Jerusalem, two Democratic members of the House said on Monday.
In a joint statement, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Chairwoman of the House Committee on Appropriations Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said that the OSC was investigating whether Pompeo’s RNC speech in August violated the Hatch Act, a federal law that prevents U.S. government employees from using their position in furtherance of a partisan political campaign.
“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,” the lawmakers wrote. “The Department has repeatedly missed Congressional overseers’ deadlines for producing documents on his recent domestic speeches that will help us understand whether they were improper political activities. So we’re grateful to OSC—whom Mr. Pompeo can’t fire as he did the Inspector General—for looking into this matter.”
As previously reported by Law&Crime, a December 2019 memorandum from the State Department Office of the Legal Adviser (OLA) entitled “Rules on Political Activities,” OLA unequivocally concluded that all presidential and political appointees such as Pompeo are prohibited from engaging in “political activity in concert with a partisan candidate, political party, or partisan political group.”
The memo also included a line, written in a combination of bold font and italics for added emphasis, which stated: “Senate confirmed Presidential appointees may not even attend a political party convention or convention-related event.”
The State Department website pulled the memo from its website just hours before Pompeo gave his RNC speech.
Pompeo’s participation in the objectively political event led a group of House Democrats to request an OSC investigation in September, saying the event raised “concerns about the use of federal resources for the secretary’s political activity, including the cost of his travel.”
Earlier this month, the office also opened a case file following complaints over Pompeo’s efforts to 1) rush the release of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails in advance of the presidential election; and 2) his decision to give multiple speeches in swing states.
After the Republican National Convention, Pompeo said that his actions were entirely lawful.
“The State Department reviewed this; it was lawful, and I personally felt it was important that the world hear the message of what this administration has accomplished,” he said, hoping to allay the growing concerns about his political participation.
Engel’s committee previously subpoenaed several of Pompeo’s top aides in connection with its investigation into the ouster of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, saying that Pompeo had engaged in “transparently political misuse of Department resources.”
Linick, an independent watchdog, was investigating Pompeo and other State Department officials at the time he was sent packing. Linick was looking into Pompeo’s role in a Saudi arms deal, as well as allegations that Pompeo used his office for personal gain to details about the hosting of lavish taxpayer-funded parties for the nation’s elite.
Linick testified before Congress in early July that Undersecretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao “attempted to bully” him on various occasions–once over a leak investigation and repeatedly over the IG’s investigation into the controversial weapons deal with Saudi Arabia.
[image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]
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