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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