Pompeo hits campaign trail for Trump in shift for top diplomat

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has been ramping up his appearances in the US before Republican audiences.
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has been ramping up his appearances in the US before Republican audiences.

WASHINGTON • US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has been ramping up his domestic appearances before overwhelmingly Republican audiences, raising criticism that he is going on the campaign trail for President Donald Trump by taking part in events that previous top US diplomats would have avoided.

Mr Pompeo was to be in Wisconsin yesterday to address the Republican-controlled state legislature in a speech billed as warning of the threat that states face from China's Communist Party.

He is following a string of Republican visitors to the battleground state, including Mr Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence and Attorney-General William Barr.

The trip to speak in the state Mr Trump narrowly won in 2016 follows his participation in a "Values Voters" event on Tuesday night, two speeches to a megachurch in Texas over the weekend and an address to the Republican National Convention while on a taxpayer-funded trip to Jerusalem last month.

The events have one thing in common: They give Mr Pompeo the opportunity to discuss administration foreign policy goals at home, while also boosting Mr Trump - and his own standing with the President's political base ahead of a potential run for the White House in 2024.

"It's clearly unprecedented in the modern era and a clear violation of established norms," said Mr Daniel Weiner, deputy director of the election reform programme at the Brennan Centre for Justice.

"Pompeo, for better or worse, has thrown that all out the window and engaged in more overt political activity than any secretary in recent memory," Mr Weiner added.

As former vice-president Joe Biden solidified his standing as the Democratic nominee, the 56-year-old Mr Pompeo mentioned him more and more frequently in criticising the Obama administration's policies, a break from past restraint against attacking predecessors' foreign-policy records so openly.

The secretary rejects accusations that he is engaging in domestic politics ahead of the Nov 3 election.

 
 

At Prestonwood Baptist Church in Texas last weekend, Mr Pompeo said he is "not allowed to do politics".

He has scoffed at reporters who ask him about the trips, accusing them of being "coastal elites" who do not understand that he is trying to bring the department's message to the American heartland. He adds that his Christian faith is relevant because it informs the way he does his job.

A State Department spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mr Pompeo's job is to lead the execution of Mr Trump's foreign policy priorities and communicating that message directly is an important part of his task.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2020, with the headline 'Pompeo hits campaign trail for Trump in shift for top diplomat'. Print Edition | Subscribe