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Sec. of State Pompeo courts controversy and Trump by giving speech at the RNC

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 8/25/2020 Dave Goldiner
Mike Pompeo wearing a suit and tie looking at the camera: US Secretary of States Mike Pompeo listens as US President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House on April 8, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images) © MANDEL NGAN US Secretary of States Mike Pompeo listens as US President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House on April 8, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Mike loves Don -- and he wants the whole world to know it.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to break with tradition -- and potentially ax the Hatch Act -- by giving a full-throated endorsement of President Trump Tuesday night.

Pompeo is deliberately adding to the controversy by speaking from Jerusalem, where he is on an official diplomatic trip to the Middle East.

The State Department claims that Pompeo will be speaking to the convention in his personal capacity and won’t violate the Hatch Act that prohibits cabinet members from using their official platforms for partisan political purposes.

Democrats and other critics cry foul. They accuse the country’s top diplomat of inappropriate political behavior that has been anathema to his predecessors.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) said Tuesday that his oversight subcommittee of the House Foreign Relations Committee would launch a probe into the legality of Pompeo’s speech and demanded documents from the State Department.

Pompeo himself sent a diplomatic cable last month to all U.S. posts abroad, reminding them to steer clear of domestic politics.

“The department’s longstanding policy is that U.S. citizen employees ... may not engage in partisan political activity while posted (overseas),” Pompeo wrote.

Democrats say Pompeo’s planned speech, which is designed to capitalize on support for Trump’s unwavering support of Israel’s right-wing government, plainly violates his own edict.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the cable late Monday.

“Once again, the rules go out the window for Secretary Pompeo when they get in the way of serving his political interests and Donald Trump,” Engel said in a statement.

The State Department has defended Pompeo’s decision to appear at the convention. Officials have noted that Hatch Act rules for Senate-confirmed political appointees like the secretary are slightly less restrictive than those for rank-and-file diplomats.

They assert that no State Department resources were spent on the speech, which was filmed in Jerusalem on Monday.

Critics, though, say Pompeo is violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the Hatch Act by using government resources to travel to the venue and jeopardizing long-standing tradition that domestic politics ends at the water’s edge when it comes to diplomacy.

At the same time, they complain that in using Jerusalem as the venue, Pompeo is further politicizing the U.S.-Israel relationship with a pitch for Trump’s reelection.

“It is unprecedented and highly unethical for a sitting secretary of state to address a political convention while on official foreign travel,” said Halie Soifer, the head of the Jewish Democratic Council of America. “In addition to violating the Hatch Act, Secretary Pompeo’s plans to speak at the Republican National Convention from Jerusalem underscore the president’s ongoing effort to politicize the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Trump has proudly claimed the mantle of being America’s most pro-Israel president ever and as proof pointed to his decisions to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state, move the U.S. Embassy to the holy city from Tel Aviv, recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and sideline the Palestinians. Such actions have won him high praise from conservative Israelis and American Jews but also appealed strongly to evangelical Christians in the United State whose support Trump is counting on in November.

While previous secretaries of state have naturally supported the policies of the presidents they served, they have steered clear of public political endorsements, sometimes going to great lengths to avoid their parties’ conventions.

Previous secretaries of state have shunned overtly partisan rhetoric, and some have made a deliberate point of being out of the country and unavailable during their political parties’ presidential nominating events.

Like two of his predecessors, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, both of whom were unsuccessful Democratic Party nominees for president, Pompeo was a member of Congress before joining the executive branch. But both Clinton and Kerry eschewed the Democratic National Convention while they served as America’s top diplomat.

Not limited to Democrats, when Republicans nominated John McCain in 2008, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was on a trip to Portugal, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco and did not endorse any political candidates.

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