U.S. lawmakers: Special Counsel probing possible Pompeo campaign law violation

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo waves before his meeting with Romania's Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu at the State Department in Washington, U.S., October 19, 2020. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas?/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Democratic leaders of two U.S. House of Representatives Committees said on Monday the Office of Special Counsel had launched an investigation of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech to the Republican National Convention in August.

Pompeo, who was appointed to his position by President Donald Trump, praised the Republican president’s foreign policy record in a speech recorded in Jerusalem in August during a trip to Israel. The speech was aired at the convention, which nominated Trump for re-election. Critics say the speech violated the Hatch Act, which limits political activities of federal employees

“Our offices have confirmed that the Office of Special Counsel has launched a probe into potential Hatch Act violations tied to Secretary Pompeo’s speech to the Republican National Convention” Representatives Nita Lowey, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, and Eliot Engel, leader of House Foreign Affairs, said in a joint statement.

Election Day is Nov. 3.

A spokesman for the counsel’s office confirmed that its Hatch Act unit has received complaints from members of Congress regarding potential violations by Pompeo, and that it had opened a case file, but was unable to provide further comment.

Critics immediately pounced in August, saying Pompeo had broken with decades of protocol in using his appointed office for partisan purposes and accusing him of violating the Hatch Act. [L1N2FS019]

A State Department official told a reporter traveling with Pompeo at the time that the secretary was appearing in his personal capacity and no State Department personnel or resources were involved in his speech.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by David Gregorio