a middle aged white guy stands with the old city of Jerusalem behind him at dusk
In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses the virtual convention in a pre-recorded video from Jerusalem, Israel, on August 25, 2020. (Photo/JTA-The Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)

Mike Pompeo delivers convention speech from Jerusalem, sparking congressional query

Mike Pompeo, the U.S. secretary of state, spoke from Jerusalem to the Republican convention supporting President Donald Trump’s reelection, an unusual if not unprecedented act that has triggered a congressional investigation.

“I’m speaking to you from beautiful Jerusalem,” Pompeo said in remarks broadcast Tuesday and taped a day earlier atop the King David Hotel, with the Old City as a backdrop.

Pompeo’s message was that Trump was reasserting a robust U.S. posture in the international arena. He cited a number of policies that have pleased the centrist and right-wing pro-Israel community.

“The president exited the U.S. from the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran and squeezed the ayatollahs, Hezbollah and Hamas,” he said. “The president moved the U.S. embassy to this very City of God, Jerusalem, the rightful capital of the Jewish homeland. And just two weeks ago, the president brokered a historic peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.”

Pompeo was the latest of a number of convention speakers who mentioned the Jerusalem embassy move during the convention, including Trump’s son, Eric, former ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Jason Joyce, a Maine lobster fisherman.

Pompeo has drawn sharp criticism from former state department officials for politicizing the office, and Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, the chairman of the oversight subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, on Tuesday wrote to the State Department to say Pompeo may be violating the Hatch Act, which forbids federal employees from participating in some kinds of political activity.

Pompeo has said that the filming did not incur government expense, but he is in Israel on official business, to speak with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about Iran and the nascent normalization process with the UAE. The King David Hotel has for decades been the preferred hotel for secretaries of state.

A cable Pompeo sent to State Department staffers last month forbade “using one’s official position or official resources for partisan political purposes, or engaging in partisan political activity while on duty.”

Ron Kampeas

JTA D.C. bureau chief

JTA

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