Pompeo’s decision to address the RNC in pre-recorded remarks from Jerusalem breaks with the precedent of state secretaries not dealing with political conventions and a long-standing protocol not to discuss domestic politics at the foreign. It has drawn the attention and contempt of diplomats.
A State Department spokesperson and another source familiar with the situation defended the move, saying Pompeo would make the remarks in his personal capacity and that no taxpayer funds would be used.
However, in his July cable, Pompeo himself noted that “Presidential and political appointments and the SES (Senior Executive Service) career are subject to significant restrictions on their political activity; they may not engage in any partisan political activity in conjunction with a partisan campaign, political party or partisan political group, even in their personal capacity and outside the federal workplace. ”
In an email sent in February, Assistant Secretary of State Stephen Biegun told employees in February that he would “stay on the sidelines of the political process this year” and urged them to review the guidance on political activities for s ‘ensure they are “flawless,” according to an email seen by CNN.
“People appointed by the president cannot even attend a congress of a political party”
The December 2019 guidance from the State Department’s Office of the Legal Counsel states – in bold with parts in italics – that “persons appointed by the President confirmed by the Senate cannot even attend a political party convention or party. an event linked to an agreement ”.
In his email, Biegun noted that while “I am not active on social media, I encourage you to think about your own practices and how the guidance provided by the Office of the Legal Counsel might apply. to your activity on social networks. I also intend to be careful how I respond to emails from friends that even have the appearance of partisan political content. ”
“I hope you will join me in carefully adhering to these restrictions designed to support our non-partisan foreign policy,” he said in the email, which was first reported by Politico.
Pompeo tweeted on Sunday from his personal account that he was “looking forward to sharing with you how my family is SAFE and SECURE thanks to President Trump.”
He appeared to pre-record his speech, which is scheduled to air Tuesday at the convention, Monday from a hotel rooftop in Jerusalem. Pompeo is in the city on a seesaw across the Middle East and North Africa.
Pompeo’s decision to deal with the GOP convention, particularly Jerusalem, shocked former and current State Department officials and foreign policy experts.
A spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton noted that she did not address the 2012 Democratic National Convention while she was secretary of state, despite her future political ambitions.
“She didn’t play any role because that’s not what SecStates do. When you’re in government service, your job is to serve the American people, not your party delegates, ”Nick Merrill told CNN. “Like Pompeo, she was considering running for president, but her work as the country’s chief diplomat, and her task of protecting our national security, always came first. ”
“It is unprecedented in modern times for a secretary of state to address a political convention,” former Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns tweeted on Monday. “This is not wise at a time when our chief diplomat should be focusing (sic) on restoring America’s lost global credibility. “
“It seems completely inappropriate”
A current foreign service officer told CNN “it seems totally inappropriate for the person at the forefront of American diplomacy to speak so politically.”
“It doesn’t do any good,” they said, adding that they thought their foreign counterparts “would be wondering about it.”
A State Department spokesperson said Sunday that “Secretary Pompeo will speak on the convention in his personal capacity” and that “no State Department resources will be used.”
“Staff are not involved in preparing remarks or arranging for Secretary Pompeo’s appearance,” they said. “The State Department will not bear any costs in connection with this appearance. “
A familiar source said President Donald Trump asked Pompeo to speak and he considers it a great honor to have been asked. The President believes it will be one of the most important speeches of the week. The speech was authorized by personal attorneys for Pompeo, attorneys for the State Department and the White House, and attorneys for RNC, this source said. They called it “completely legal and very appropriate”.
Another source told CNN that the speech is expected to be around four minutes long and will highlight what the administration sees as Trump’s foreign policy achievements, including being tough on China, pursuing a robust Middle East policy. , strengthen NATO and seek diplomacy with North Korea, said a source familiar with the convention’s plans. On the Middle East aspect of the speech, Pompeo will highlight the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the Israel-UAE deal last week, the source said.
Under the Hatch Act, federal employees are generally not permitted to engage in partisan political activities while on duty, in a federal hall or building, wearing an official uniform or badge, or operating a government vehicle.
State Department guidelines in the Foreign Affairs Handbook go even further, preventing employees, spouses, and family members from engaging in partisan politics abroad “other than authorized activities relating to foreign affairs. US elections ”- a long-standing provision pointed out by Pompeo in his cable.
Biegun noted in his February email: “We often talk about the requirements of the Hatch Act, but the truth is the department has more significant restrictions designed to ensure that our representation abroad is not seen as partisan.
CNN’s Kylie Atwood and Michael Schwartz contributed to this report.