(August 25, 2020 / JNS) Democrats expressed concern over the decision by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to address the Republican National Convention on Tuesday night while on a diplomatic trip abroad. He is currently in Jerusalem after talks with Israeli and other leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom Dominic Raab.
“Secretary Pompeo’s decision to address the Republican Convention from Jerusalem isn’t just an abuse of taxpayer dollars, it undermines the critical work being done by the State Department,” said the Biden campaign in a statement on Tuesday. “Every day America’s diplomats abroad proudly represent our country—not a political party—but Mike Pompeo’s repeated and blatant use of his office for overtly political purposes only serves to undercut their work, and it further weakens the critical alliances and global relationships that have already been so badly damaged by this administration’s recklessness.”
Furthermore, the Biden campaign accused the Trump administration of turning Israel into a “political wedge issue” and eroding bipartisan support.
Delivering remarks from a foreign country during a national convention is a first.
Pompeo taped the remarks on Monday on the rooftop of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
This was despite him reportedly telling U.S. State Department employees in July that “presidential and political appointees and career SES (Senior Executive Service) are subject to significant restrictions on their political activity; they may not engage in any partisan political activity in concert with a partisan campaign, political party or partisan political group, even on personal time and outside of the federal workplace.”
The State Department defended Pompeo’s upcoming remarks, saying that he would be addressing the convention in a “personal capacity” and that no taxpayer dollars would be used.
“By violating another vital norm-speaking to #RNC from Israel-@SecPompeo is helping @realDonaldTrump further degrade American government, just as their never-ending effort to politicize Israel damages that country. Trump & Pompeo care only about themselves, not the U.S., not Israel,” tweeted Democratic Majority for Israel on Monday.
By violating another vital norm-speaking to #RNC from Israel-@SecPompeo is helping @realDonaldTrump further degrade American government, just as their never ending effort to politicize Israel damages that country. Trump & Pompeo care only about themselves, not the US, not Israel
— Democratic Majority for Israel (@DemMaj4Israel) August 24, 2020
Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America and former national security advisor to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, called the planned remarks “unprecedented and highly unethical.”
“By arranging for Secretary Pompeo to speak to the RNC while on official travel in Jerusalem, Trump is once again using Israel to score political points,” she said.
The Republican Jewish Coalition came to his defense.
“Democrats wouldn’t perceive a speech from Jerusalem, where the Secretary of State Pompeo is because he is in the middle of a Middle East trip, doing important work for our country, if the Democrats weren’t so bad on Israel,” RJC spokesperson Neil Strauss told JNS.
“The sensitivities that Joe Biden has about Jerusalem are of his making,” he said. “Mike Pompeo, in his capacity as a private citizen, shouldn’t have to give up his chance to speak at the RNC because Joe Biden is bad on Israel.”
The Republican convention began on Monday and concludes on Thursday.
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