A House Democrat has opened an investigation into Mike Pompeo’s controversial decision to address the Republican National Convention by breaking the longstanding precedent of sitting US secretaries of state avoiding partisan politics.
Representative Joaquin Castro, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, said in a statement on Tuesday that the “American people deserve a full investigation.”
Pompeo, 56, on Tuesday deviated from his own advice and broke the longstanding precedent of sitting US secretaries of state avoiding partisan politics to urge Americans to re-elect President Donald Trump on November 3 if they want to keep the country safe.
Pompeo recorded his speech while in Jerusalem on an official State Department trip to the Middle East and North Africa.
“@SecPompeo’s participation in the #RNCConvention during the course of official @StateDept work is not only unacceptable but appears that it may also be illegal. I’ve launched a @HouseForeign investigation,” Castro tweeted.
In a letter to Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun on Tuesday, Castro noted, “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. It appears that it may also be illegal.”
The Texas Democrat cited the Hatch Act and State Department guidance — including a December memo from the State Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser that “Senate-confirmed Presidential appointees may not even attend a political party convention or convention-related event.”
The Hatch Act of 1939 prohibits all employees in the executive branch of the federal government, except the president and vice president, from engaging in some forms of political activity.
“In furtherance of the constitutionally mandated obligation to conduct oversight of the State Department, as well as to determine whether and legislative action is necessary, to address this matter, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations intends to examine this issue carefully,” Castro wrote.
Brushing away the criticism, Pompeo said that his speech from Israel is in his personal capacity.
On Tuesday, Pompeo tweeted from his personal account, “President Trump has ensured the safety of America, and SECURED our many FREEDOMS, which is the cornerstone of this great nation.” “I look forward to sharing with you how the President has delivered on that mission TONIGHT!” he wrote.
Just a month earlier, Pompeo warned staff in a diplomatic cable to “not improperly engage the Department of State in the political process,” and stressed departmental guidance on political activities.
Past secretaries of state from both sides of the aisle, including John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, did not address their party’s conventions while serving in the role, CNN reported.