Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s decision to deliver a speech for the Republican National Convention is drawing criticism from career diplomats and Democrats.

What You Need To Know

  • Pompeo is delivering a speech from Jerusalem for the Republican National Convention

  • Critics say the speech is unethical and violates State Department policy and the Hatch Act

  • A House subcommittee says it has launched an investigation into Pompeo's speech

  • The State Department insists Pompeo is speaking in a personal capacity and that government resources weren't used

Pompeo’s pre-recorded remarks from Jerusalem will air during Day 2 of the convention Tuesday night. Critics say the speech will violate long-standing State Department policy of keeping politics out of foreign affairs as well as the Hatch Act, which “prohibits Federal employees from engaging in political activities while on duty, in a Government room or building, while wearing an official uniform, or while using a Government vehicle.”

The State Department says Pompeo is addressing the convention in his “personal capacity” and that the department was not involved in preparing the speech and “will not bear any costs in conjunction with this appearance." Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel told Fox News the secretary of state’s address will be paid for by the RNC and President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. 

But four current and former high-ranking diplomats told NBC News that it is unlikely the speech, especially given the overseas travel, could be delivered without the help of government resources such as planes, motorcades, security and staff that might have accompanied him. 

"People are extraordinarily upset about it,” former Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told NBC. “This is really a bridge too far. Pompeo is clearly ensuring the State Department is politicized by using his position to carry out what is basically a partisan mission."

The State Department’s legal adviser issued a series of memos aimed at preventing employees from engaging in political activity this year. One of those memos said in bold type that "Senate-confirmed Presidential appointees may not even attend a political party convention,” NBC reported.

Just last month, Pompeo himself was reminding employees of his agency to "not improperly engage the Department of State in the political process," according to a cable obtained by CNN.

In that memo, Pompeo wrote 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."

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), chair of oversights and investigations on the House’s Foreign Affairs Committee, sent a letter Tuesday to Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun informing him that the panel is launching a probe into Pompeo’s speech.

“It is highly unusual, and likely unprecedented, for a sitting Secretary of State to speak at a partisan convention for either of the political parties. It appears that it may also be illegal,” Castro wrote, citing the Hatch Act.

Four teams of lawyers, including the State Department legal counsel, reportedly reviewed the speech to make sure it did not cross any ethical lines. That, however, contradicts the opinion of the State Department's legal adviser.

Pompeo’s decision to use Jerusalem as a backdrop for his speech adds to the concerns of his critics, who say it politicizes the relationship between the U.S. and Israel, and who wonder what message it sends to other countries.

Pompeo is expected to tout what the administration sees as Trump’s foreign policy accomplishments, including being tough on China, seeking diplomacy with North Korea, brokering the recent peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 

The campaign for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden released a statement Tuesday blasting Pompeo for giving the speech, saying he’s serving as an “errand boy for the President's reelection on a taxpayer-funded diplomatic mission.”

"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. "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."

Bedingfield added 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.”

No secretary of state has attended his or her party’s nominating convention since the 1980s, and historians could not find any example of a secretary delivering a speech at a convention, NBC reported.

Nick Merril, a spokesman for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, told CNN that Clinton “didn't play a role (in 2012) because that's not what SecStates do. When you're serving in government, your job is to serve the American people, not your party's delegates. Like Pompeo she was thinking of running for President, but her job as the country's chief diplomat, and her task of protecting our national security, came first, always."