As elections near, Pompeo plays the role of political operative

As Election Day nears, Mike Pompeo is vowing to produce Hillary Clinton emails, but that's not all he's doing to help make Donald Trump happy.
President Trump Hosts Italian President Sergio Mattarella At The White House
Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, center, listens as President Donald Trump, speaks during a meeting with Sergio Mattarella, Italy's president in the Oval Office of the White House on Oct. 16, 2019.Michael Reynolds / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Last week, Donald Trump lashed out wildly in a variety of directions, and even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo couldn't escape the president's tantrum. The president specifically targeted the Kansas Republican for, of all things, failing to produce emails sent by Hillary Clinton several years ago.

"They're in the State Department, but Mike Pompeo has been unable to get them out, which is very sad actually. I'm not happy about him for that reason," Trump said. "He was unable to get that. I don't know why. You're running the State Department; you're able to get them out."

It wasn't at all clear which emails the president thinks are still lurking in State Department servers. Nevertheless, just one day later, the nation's chief diplomat assured Fox News that he and his team intend to produce anti-Clinton materials "before the election."

As Bloomberg News reported yesterday, Pompeo's still at it.

The State Department is doing "everything we can" to release additional emails from Hillary Clinton's tenure as the top U.S. diplomat, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said, reaffirming a vow he made after President Donald Trump criticized him for not doing more. "We'll continue to do the right thing, we'll make sure that all these emails get to the right place," Pompeo told reporters Wednesday. "We will do everything we can to make sure that the American people get a chance to see as much as we can equitably produce."

The point of the endeavor remains elusive. If old Clinton emails exist, they're unlikely to be significant. But even if Pompeo were to uncover voluminous emails in which the former presidential candidate spoke in great detail about orchestrating a series of felonies, I'm hard pressed to imagine how this would alter the trajectory of the 2020 race -- because the last time I checked, Hillary Clinton isn't running for anything.

But for Pompeo, that doesn't appear to much matter: Trump expects officials to use levers of federal power to help his re-election campaign, and so the secretary of State is eager to do his part.

In fact, Pompeo appears a little too eager. Just today, he did media appearances with outlets from several states, including 2020 battlegrounds such as Florida, Georgia, and Michigan.

"Yes, the secretary should talk to the American people," Philip J. Crowley, former U.S. assistant secretary of State wrote today, "but in those states three weeks before the election? He's not even pretending to keep his distance from domestic politics."

Pompeo keeps proving this criticism true. The cabinet secretary headlined a political event in Florida late last month, which roughly coincided with Pompeo's swing-state tour. The Associated Press noted that the secretary was "shattering diplomatic norms" with his "overtly political" excursions.

A month earlier, of course, Pompeo became the first modern secretary of State to deliver remarks at a national political convention, despite federal ethics laws and election-year guidelines issued by his own office.

About a year ago, Pompeo expressed interest in engaging in some limited political efforts, but he backed off when advised on State Department ethics rules. A year later, he's apparently decided to stop caring and start embracing a role as election-season political operative.