The campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is taking aim at Tuesday night’s speech by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Republican National Convention, calling his planned address “absolutely disgraceful” and slamming Pompeo as an “errand boy” for President Trump’s reelection.
America’s top diplomat, who will address the RNC from Israel while on a diplomatic mission, is expected to touch on foreign policy achievements such as the recent U.S.-brokered deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and the president’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
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The State Department has said Pompeo will be speaking in a personal capacity and Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Ronna McDaniel has stressed that all production costs for the secretary of state’s address are being paid for by the RNC and the Trump reelection campaign.
But there’s been plenty of criticism that Pompeo’s breaking precedent for sitting top diplomats to steer clear of national political party conventions. Even if it does not violate the Hatch Act – which forbids the use of government resources for political purposes – as critics have suggested, they have also claimed it politicizes the U.S.-Israel relationship.
“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,” Biden Deputy Campaign Manager Kate Bedingfield said 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.”
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Bedingfield charged that “making this inherently partisan address from Jerusalem is also the latest instance of this administration seeking to use Israel as a political wedge issue, when the historic bipartisan support in Washington for Israel and her security should never be subordinated to politicization for personal gain. Even by this administration’s abysmally low standards, Secretary Pompeo’s decision to serve as an errand boy for the President’s reelection on a taxpayer-funded diplomatic mission, and his decision to use one of our closest partners as a political prop in the process, is absolutely disgraceful.”
Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey — a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who was a Biden rival during the presidential primaries — stressed to reporters on Tuesday that Pompeo’s convention speech “is reckless… it is counter to the traditions of our country.”
The RNC’s McDaniel on Sunday told CBS News that “it’s appropriate to talk about this administration and what’s happening with this administration and the policies that have made the lives better of the American people.”
And a State Department official noted that “no State Department resources will be used….Staff are not involved in preparing the remarks or in the arrangements for Secretary Pompeo’s appearance. The State Department will not bear any costs in conjunction with this appearance.”
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The Associated Press reported that four teams of lawyers, including the State Department legal counsel, reviewed the speech, to be delivered from Jerusalem, to make sure that it does not cross ethical lines.
On Sunday, after the convention lineup was announced on the eve of the confab, Pompeo tweeted from his personal Twitter account that he’s “Looking forward to sharing with you how my family is more SAFE and more SECURE because of President Trump.”
Neither Hillary Clinton nor John Kerry attended conventions when they served as secretaries of state — and both were on trips abroad at the time.
In 2008, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was also abroad when Republicans nominated Sen. John McCain as the GOP’s standard-bearer.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.