Mike Pompeo faces (yet another) federal ethics investigation

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sure is keeping the Office of Special Counsel busy with his many alleged ethical transgressions.
Image: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, on July 15, 2020.Andrew Harnik / AFP - Getty Images

It was a week ago today when the New York Times reported on a new ethics investigation into a leading cabinet official: the U.S. Office of Special Counsel said it would investigate whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo violated federal ethics laws earlier this month.

At issue was Pompeo's vow to use his department's resources to, at Donald Trump's behest, find and release Hillary Clinton's emails before Election Day 2020. Seven days later, there is eerily similar news from the same office about an entirely different issue. The Hill reported this morning:

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has launched a probe into whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo violated the Hatch Act by delivering prerecorded remarks to the Republican National Convention while on official diplomatic travel in Israel, top Democratic House lawmakers said on Monday.

"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," Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.

In case anyone's forgotten, Pompeo became the first modern secretary of State to speak at a nominating convention in August, delivering a wildly dishonest and partisan speech -- from foreign soil, no less.

Pompeo personally approved a State Department policy earlier this year that told the agency's workforce, "Senate-confirmed Presidential appointees may not even attend a political party convention or convention-related event." The Kansas Republican nevertheless ignored his own policy, while simultaneously ignoring federal ethics laws and modern American norms.

The fact that the Office of Special Counsel -- not to be confused with Robert Mueller's special counsel's office -- has taken an interest is a no-brainer.

But while we wait for the scrutiny of the diplomat's political work to unfold, it's worth pausing to appreciate just how many related controversies we've seen surrounding Pompeo. When I see a headline about the secretary of State allegedly violating ethical limits, I run through a variety of possible stories: is the headline referring to his convention antics or his pre-election search for Clinton emails? Maybe the story is about his so-called Madison Dinners? Or accusations that he's used governmental business to advance his political ambitions? Or perhaps allegations that he misused federal resources to benefit himself and his family?

Perhaps most importantly, how about the questions surrounding Pompeo's role in orchestrating the firing of the State Department's inspector general -- who happened to be investigating the cabinet secretary for possible wrongdoing?