House Democrats push forward on probe of Pompeo’s political speeches

House Democrats are widening an investigation into whether Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump COVID-19 result raises pressure on Pompeo GOP Sen. Thom Tillis tests positive for coronavirus Pelosi tests negative for COVID-19 MORE is illegally campaigning for the president ahead of the November election. 

Reps. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelDemocrats introduce bill to combat sexual harassment at State Department Overnight Defense: Congress recommends nuclear arms treaty be extended | Dems warn Turkey | Military’s eighth COVID death identified Democrats warn Turkey over involvement in Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict MORE (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroCalls for COVID-19 tests at Capitol grow after Trump tests positive Democrats introduce bill to combat sexual harassment at State Department Disinformation, QAnon efforts targeting Latino voters ramp up ahead of presidential election MORE (D-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, sent a letter Monday to the State Department demanding the agency’s legal guidance over at least three recent speeches Pompeo delivered in the U.S. 

This includes speeches to the Wisconsin state legislature and a church in Texas in September and a speech Saturday at an event for the anti-abortion advocacy organization the Florida Family Policy Council.

Pompeo was originally expected to deliver his remarks in person, where attendees paid upward of $10,000 for tickets to secure a personal visit with the secretary, CNN reported.

Pompeo rescheduled his remarks, delivering them remotely from Washington out of an abundance of caution following President TrumpDonald John TrumpQuestions remain unanswered as White House casts upbeat outlook on Trump’s COVID-19 fight White House staffers get email saying to stay home if they experience coronavirus symptoms White House says ‘appropriate precautions’ were taken for Trump’s outing to see supporters MORE’s positive diagnosis of COVID-19. 

But his participation in the event one month before the election is adding to outrage from congressional Democrats with oversight of foreign affairs. Trump is trailing Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenQuestions remain unanswered as White House casts upbeat outlook on Trump’s COVID-19 fight CNN anchor confronts senior Trump campaign adviser after motorcade: Trump’s ‘downplaying the virus’ Biden again tests negative for COVID-19 MORE in Florida, according to the most recent poll published by Siena College and The New York Times. 

“It is concerning that the Secretary is suddenly crisscrossing the country at taxpayers’ expense to speak with state legislators and private groups and that these events appear to be increasing in frequency as the November 3rd election approaches,” Engel and Castro wrote in the letter.

It was sent to Undersecretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao and acting Legal Adviser Marik String, two close allies of Pompeo.

The documents requested by House Democrats builds on an investigation launched in August over whether Pompeo violated the Hatch Act by delivering pre-recorded remarks to the Republican National Convention while he was on diplomatic travel in Israel. 

The Hatch Act prohibits federal officials from using their government positions for partisan political activity. In June,

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Top House Democrats call for watchdog probe into Pompeo’s Jerusalem speech

A pair of senior House Democrats on Friday called for the State Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) to investigate the legality of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech to the Republican National Convention last month.

Mike Pompeo, Eliot Engel are posing for a picture: Top House Democrats call for watchdog probe into Pompeo's Jerusalem speech

© Greg Nash
Top House Democrats call for watchdog probe into Pompeo’s Jerusalem speech

Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who chair the House Foreign Affairs and Appropriations committees, respectively, called on the State Department’s Deputy Inspector General Diana Shaw to launch the probe.

“Secretary Pompeo’s decision to make this speech appears to have violated long-standing prohibitions on Department employees’ participation in political activities and sends a message that the rules and standards that govern most Department employees don’t apply to the Department’s senior political appointee,” the Democratic chairpeople wrote in a letter to Shaw.

“The Secretary of State is our country’s top diplomat, responsible for representing all of America to the rest of the world, not the narrow interests of a particular president or of a single political party,” they continued.

Pompeo delivered pre-recorded remarks to the GOP convention while on official diplomatic travel to Israel last month. He has defended his participation in the political event as occurring in his personal capacity and has further said the State Department cleared his actions as lawful.

“I did this in my personal capacity. All I can say in my role as secretary of State is 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,” Pompeo told reporters on Wednesday.

But his participation has drawn intense scrutiny and criticism from Democrats, who say his remarks to the event violated State Department guidelines prohibiting presidentially-appointed and Senate-confirmed officials from engaging in political events while on duty and abroad.

They further criticized whether taxpayer dollars were used related to the secretary’s participation in the political event.

The Republican National Committee said that it would cover the cost of Pompeo’s participation in the event and the State Department said no taxpayer funds were used.

Engel and Lowey pointed out that taxpayer resources had likely been used for Pompeo’s flight to Israel, his lodging and security.

In addition to the OIG request, Democrats have launched their own investigation into Pompeo’s speech.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on oversight, announced last month an investigation into whether Pompeo’s speech violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal officials from participating in political events in their official capacities.

Pompeo is not the only administration official that Democrats have accused of violating the Hatch Act, with the Democratic-controlled House Oversight and Reform Committee on Thursday calling for the Office of Special Counsel to investigate participation by numerous administration officials during the GOP convention.

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