Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, announced he is launching an investigation surrounding Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech at the Republican National Convention. Pompeo’s speech is set to be broadcast during Tuesday’s portion of the RNC.
Castro wants to probe whether the speech violates both the Hatch Act and State Department rules.
The Hatch Act is intended to limit political activities by executive branch employees other than the president and vice president. While violating the Hatch Act is not criminal, there are potential civil fines for violations. The act also calls for violators of the act to be reprimanded or terminated from their positions if found in violation.
But in the past, the Trump administration has not acted on violations of the Hatch Act. Most notably, the Office of the Special Counsel recommended that Trump aide Kellyanne Conway be removed from her White House post after allegedly violating the act multiple times.
Pompeo is delivering his remarks during an official trip to Israel.
“The Trump administration and Secretary Pompeo have shown a gross disregard not only of basic ethics, but also a blatant willingness to violate federal law for political gain. Congress has a responsibility to stand up for the rule of law and hold them accountable for this corrupt behavior,” said Castro. “It’s absolutely unacceptable that a sitting U.S. Secretary of State, America’s top diplomat, would use official taxpayer-funded business to participate in a political party convention, particularly after the State Department published guidance that explicitly prohibits such activity.”
Sources told CNN that White House, State Department, RNC and Pompeo’s personal lawyers all signed off on the speech. CNN also reported that the State Department claimed that no taxpayer funds were used by Pompeo to deliver the speech.
While there are concerns that having Trump administration officials participate in political activities is toeing what’s legal under federal law, it is certainly unprecedented. There has not been an active secretary of state in recent times who has held a speaking role at a political convention.
ABC News reported that then Secretary of State Colin Powell would not participate in the 2004 Republican National Convention due to ethics concerns.
“As secretary of state, I am obliged not to participate in any way, shape, fashion, or form in parochial, political debates. I have to take no sides in the matter," Powell said, according to ABC News.