Two top Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee have asked the State Department to turn over records related to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent domestic speeches ahead of the presidential election.
The top US diplomat has delivered a number of speeches in the past several weeks aimed at domestic audiences – one at a megachurch in Texas, one to state lawmakers in Wisconsin and, most recently, a virtual one to a conservative Christian organization in Florida.
“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,” said Reps. Eliot Engel and Joaquin Castro. “The nexus of speeches about the Secretary’s personal religious beliefs, to a swing-state legislature accompanied by a former senior Republican party official, and at a paid-access event for an anti-abortion advocacy group, to the Secretary’s official duties as America’s lead diplomat is unclear and possibly illegal.”
In a letter to Undersecretary of State Brian Bulatao and acting legal adviser Marik String, the Democrats asked that the department turn over the latest guidance on Hatch Act compliance and “any and all records reflecting legal guidance sought by or provided to the Secretary in connection” to the Texas, Wisconsin and Florida speeches, as well as “any and all records related to communications between the White House and Department of State regarding Secretary Pompeo’s potential participation in events connected with the campaign to re-elect President Trump.”
They asked that the records be provided to the House Foreign Affairs Committee by October 12.
“We are concerned that Secretary Pompeo’s actions threaten the institutional integrity and reputation of the State Department, as well as long-standing principles of election fairness,” Engel and Castro said. “To that end, we urge the Secretary to cease from engaging in any further activity that could be construed as partisan in nature.”
A State Department spokesperson said in a statement to CNN that “the Secretary’s job is to lead the State Department in executing on the foreign policy priorities President Trump has established to serve the American people. Communicating our mission directly to the American people is one of the most important ways of strengthening it.”
“The Department takes all Congressional oversight seriously, though the unilateral characterization of official travel as ‘political trips’ seems to reveal a less than serious tone to this oversight request,” the spokesperson said. “The Department will still review it carefully and consider what accommodations, if any, can be put in place to cooperate with Congress, which is the process the Department follows on all Congressional oversight requests.”
Pompeo has shattered past precedent of secretaries of state largely avoiding the domestic political fray, and violated his own State Department regulations by speaking to the Republican National Convention. Castro launched an investigation into the speech in August.
His most recent remarks were delivered virtually to the Florida Family Policy Council on Saturday – a month ahead of Election Day. In his speech, Pompeo touted the administration’s record in the Middle East, its anti-abortion foreign policy moves, and its religious liberty efforts – all keystone issues for conservative evangelical voters.