- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo controversially delivered a speech on the second night of the Republican National Convention while on a taxpayer-funded diplomatic trip to Israel.
- Pompeo’s remarks broke from protocol, as secretaries of state don’t typically address political conventions and are meant to avoid engaging in domestic politics while abroad.
- Democrats, ethics watchdogs, and diplomats excoriated Pompeo’s unprecedented speech.
- Much of what Pompeo said on Tuesday was at odds with reality, as he repeatedly embellished what Trump has accomplished in terms of foreign policy.
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered pre-taped remarks from Jerusalem on the second night of the Republican National Convention, breaking a longstanding precedent and facing accusations of breaking the law in the process.
Though Pompeo issued a warning to US diplomats just last month against becoming involved in the “political process,” America’s top diplomat seemingly broke from his own guidance and endorsed President Donald Trump for a second term on Tuesday.
“President Trump understands what my great fellow Kansan, President Eisenhower said: ‘For all that we cherish and justly desire for ourselves or for our children, the securing of peace is the first requisite,'” Pompeo said in his speech.
“Delivering on this duty to keep us safe and our freedoms intact, this president has led bold initiatives in nearly every corner of the world. In China, he’s pulled back the curtain on the predatory aggression of the Chinese Communist Party. The president has held China accountable for covering up the China virus and allowing it to spread death and economic destruction in America and around the world,” Pompeo said.
The secretary of state went on to tout what he saw as Trump’s foreign policy accomplishments, listing out an array of policy decisions and actions. This included Trump’s decision to order the drone strike that killed top Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a move that pushed the US and Iran to the brink of war.
Much of what Pompeo said was at odds with reality. He claimed, for example, that “NATO is stronger” because of Trump. But the president has spent the past several years bashing the historic alliance while raising the nerves of US allies in the process, and he’s repeatedly made misleading assertions about how NATO is funded.
At another point, Pompeo said, “In North Korea, the president lowered the temperature and against all odds, got the North Korean leadership to the table.”
But the primary point of Trump sitting down with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was to get the rogue state to denuclearize, which it has not yet done as it continues to engage in aggressive activities that have made US allies in the region uneasy.
“The president exited the US from the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran and squeezed the ayatollah, Hezbollah, and Hamas,” Pompeo said. “The president, too, moved the US embassy to this very city of god, Jerusalem, the rightful capital of the Jewish homeland.”
Pompeo did not discuss the fact that the decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal was condemned by US allies and opened the door for the Iranians to pull away from the landmark pact while increasing tensions between Tehran and Washington. Also left unsaid was how controversial it was for Trump to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. Top regional experts repeatedly warned that doing so would be counterproductive to the longstanding US goal of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Mike Pompeo speaks to Trump's foreign policy from Jerusalem: "Because of President Trump, NATO is stronger, Ukraine has defensive weapons systems and America left a harmful treaty, so our nation can now build missiles to deter Russian aggression." pic.twitter.com/ZRMsShP9R5
— Axios (@axios) August 26, 2020
It’s unusual for America’s top diplomat to address political conventions, and against protocol for secretaries of state to inject themselves in domestic politics while abroad and acting in an official capacity.
Pompeo’s unprecedented decision to deliver a partisan speech on a taxpayer-funded trip to the Middle East has sparked uproar among congressional Democrats, diplomats, and ethics watchdogs. It was the first time in at least 75 years a sitting secretary of state has spoken at a political convention.
“At a time when peace and security in Middle East is so tough, Jerusalem should not be a prop for the RNC, and @SecPompeo should not be tarnishing the office of SecState. Unprecedented and wrong,” veteran diplomat Wendy Sherman tweeted on Sunday.
Democrats have suggested that Pompeo’s speech was illegal and in violation of the Hatch Act – a federal law that prohibits federal employees, other than the president, from engaging in political activities (including campaigning) while on the job.
Accordingly, the Democratic-led House is investigating Pompeo’s RNC speech.
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign decried Pompeo’s speech as an “abuse of taxpayer dollars,” adding that “it undermines the critical work being done by the State Department.”
The State Department, however, has defended Pompeo’s decision to deliver an RNC speech, contending that he appeared at the convention in a personal capacity. The department said that no taxpayer funds were used in the production of the video.
Pompeo has been a long-serving member of Trump’s tumultuous cabinet. He’s among Trump’s most loyal advisers, and has often clashed with the media.