Secretary of State Michael Pompeo speaking at the Hudson Institute’s Herman Kahn Award Gala, Oct. 30, 2019. (State Department photo)

Pompeo’s convention speech violates State Department’s Hatch Act guidance, critics say

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s taped address from the Middle East to be played during the Republican convention is raising ire among critics.

In an Aug. 24 press statement, Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, linked to two internal State Department documents that he says clearly show “that Secretary Pompeo’s upcoming speech to the Republican National Convention (RNC) will violate legal restrictions on political activities.”

A December 2019 memorandum from the State Department Office of the Legal Adviser states that political appointees are prohibited from engaging in “political activity in concert with a partisan candidate, political party, or partisan political group.”  Engel added that the memo stresses (with bold text) that “Senate-confirmed Presidential appointees may not even attend a political party convention or convention-related event.”

He also cited a July 24 cable from the secretary of State reminding staff that “Presidential and political appointees and career [senior executive service employees] are subject to significant restrictions on their political activity; they may not engage in any partisan political activity in concert with a partisan campaign, political party, or partisan political group, even on personal time and outside of the federal workplace.”

According to Politico, unnamed department officials have told media outlets “that multiple legal teams have signed off on Pompeo’s appearance.” They may be arguing that a message taped during Pompeo’s free time outside the U.S. does not qualify as attending the event, the article said.

"People are extraordinarily upset about it. This is really a bridge too far," former Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told NBC News. "Pompeo is clearly ensuring the State Department is politicized by using his position to carry out what is basically a partisan mission."

“Rules go out the window for Secretary Pompeo when they get in the way of serving his political interests and Donald Trump,” Engle said in his statement. “Mr. Pompeo should show real respect for American law, diplomacy, and diplomats, and should follow his own guidance, cancel the speech, and watch the RNC from his hotel room after the workday is done.”

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