On April 16, the State Department inspector general released a report detailing former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s use of government employees for personal tasks for himself and his wife. These tasks — performed at taxpayer expense — included making restaurant reservations, shopping and caring for the Pompeo’s dog. The report concluded that Pompeo and his wife, Susan, “made over 100 requests to employees in the office of the secretary to conduct work that appeared to be personal in nature.”
Apparently investigating Pompeo was not good for a State Department inspector general’s job security.
Pompeo had done everything possible to avoid being investigated. Inspector General Steve Linick was fired by then-President Donald Trump allegedly at the behest of Pompeo in May 2020. His successor, acting Inspector General Mike Akard, resigned the following August. Apparently investigating Pompeo was not good for a State Department inspector general’s job security, even though inspectors general are supposed to be independent of their political superiors.
Making matters worse, Pompeo then instructed State Department employees to refuse to comply with congressional subpoenas for information pertaining to the the firing and the inspector general investigations.
This mess with the State Department Inspector General’s office has focused the spotlight on Pompeo, and understandably so. The Trump White House flouted rules designed to prevent ethical breaches, and officials were rarely punished for even blatant abuses of power. It’s important to make sure, at the very least, these abuses are identified publicly and clearly. This is especially true as Pompeo continues to tease a possible 2024 presidential run.
But sadly these were not Pompeo’s only abuses of public office. Other abuses — rooted in extreme politicization of the State Department — were far more devastating to U.S. interests around the globe. They, too, must be called out. And there’s no time like the present.
We can start with Pompeo’s “human rights commission,” which focused almost entirely on issues concerning religious conservatives and business. The commission issued a report in 2019 emphasizing property rights and religious rights, removed women’s reproductive rights from the definition of human rights and expressed concern about "the prodigious expansion of human rights."
The leader of Pompeo’s human rights commission was Professor Mary Ann Glendon, who once compared Boston Globe reporters to Osama bin Laden because the Globe dared to expose pedophile priests in the Catholic Church.
So much for global human rights.
This was only the beginning. Pompeo and Trump continually directed the State Department to engage in initiatives around the globe designed solely for one purpose — to advance the political prospects of President Donald Trump.
Next came Ukraine. Trump’s negotiations surrounding military aid for Ukraine resulted in his first impeachment after it was reported that Trump tried to offer a quid pro quo: aid in return for dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told Congress that State Department officials knew about this quid pro quo.
The complicity of the State Department means United States foreign policy was used to extort foreign powers into helping Donald Trump attack his political opponents and win reelection. Foreign countries that did not help Trump win reelection would be left to fend for themselves — or in Ukraine’s case, to be fed to the Russian bear.
A year later, in August 2020, Pompeo did something no previous secretary of state had done in recent memory.
A year later, in August 2020, Pompeo did something no previous secretary of state had done in recent memory — he spoke at the Republican National Convention in support of Trump’s bid for a second term.
Pompeo delivered his speech, not from a location inside the United States, but from halfway around the world while on a diplomatic mission to Israel. His backdrop was the Western Wall. His message: “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. This is a deal that our grandchildren will read about in their history books.”
The Hatch Act prohibits a federal employee — including the secretary of state — from using his official position to influence the result of an election. That includes using one’s official position to endorse a candidate. That certainly includes using a State Department diplomatic mission to Israel, paid for by U.S. taxpayers, to shill for Trump’s re-election in a speech given to the Republican National Convention.
Last August Professor Claire Finkelstein and I filed a complaint against Pompeo with the Office of Special Counsel, the federal agency charged with enforcing the Hatch Act. Thus far, we have not received an answer to our complaint. But if using a U.S. diplomatic mission to promote a political campaign isn’t a Hatch Act violation, one wonders why we have the Hatch Act to begin with.
Pompeo was himself a former congressman. He aspired to run for the Senate. He yearned for the approval of Trump, who never got along with his predecessor Rex Tillerson. Tillerson angered his boss, once reportedly calling him a “moron.” Pompeo would not make that mistake. He spent his tenure trying to do everything he could to please Trump, even if it meant turning the State Department into an arm of the president’s reelection campaign. The damage he did to American foreign policy in the process is immeasurable.
Separating politics and state has always been a challenge in the United States government, but the impact on foreign policy is devastating when the Department of State becomes the instrument of partisan politics. Pompeo’s successor Anthony Blinken has his work cut out for him as he attempts to restore the credibility of the United States around the globe.
In the end, Mike Pompeo will not — or at least, should not — be remembered as the secretary of state who made dozens of State Department employees walk his dog, address his Christmas cards or arrange his restaurant reservations. He should be remembered as the secretary who directed his employees around the world to forget their oaths to United States of America and swear uncritical allegiance to the presidential campaign of one man: Donald Trump.