Questions overshadow Melania Trump, Pompeo speeches on Republican Day Two

imagePolitics15 minutes ago (Aug 25, 2020 06:30AM ET)


(C) Reuters. First Lady Melania Trump speaks during an event with young artists who depicted imagery related to the suffrage movement and the 19th Amendment, at the White House


By John Whitesides

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – First lady Melania Trump will make the case for Donald Trump’s re-election on the second night of the Republican National Convention on Tuesday, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will address the convention in a break with norms discouraging partisan political activity by the nation’s top diplomat.

Republicans nominated Trump for a second term in the White House during Monday’s opening day of the convention, painting a dire portrait of America if Democrat Joe Biden wins the White House in November.

On Tuesday, Melania Trump will cap the program with a speech from the White House Rose Garden in Washington, and Pompeo, believed to be eyeing a run for the presidency in 2024, will speak from Israel while on a diplomatic trip to the Middle East.

Both appearances have drawn criticism from Democrats, who question whether the use of the White House – where Donald Trump will give his acceptance speech on the South Lawn on Thursday – may lead to violations of the 1939 Hatch Act, which restricts federal employees from engaging in certain political activities.

Pompeo plans to speak from Jerusalem even though he warned diplomats in July that presidential appointees should not take part in partisan activity, according to an unclassified cable reviewed by Reuters and sent to all U.S. diplomatic and consular posts abroad.

Biden’s deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said Pompeo’s decision to give a political speech during an overseas mission is a “blatant use of office for overtly political purposes” that undermines the critical work being done by the State Department.

“Secretary Pompeo’s decision to serve as an errand boy for the President’s re-election on a taxpayer-funded diplomatic mission, and his decision to use one of our closest partners as a political prop in the process, is absolutely disgraceful,” Bedingfield told Reuters.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Earlier on Monday, a State Department official told the pool reporter traveling with Pompeo on behalf of the U.S. media that Pompeo would speak to the convention in his personal capacity.

The Trump campaign has shrugged off complaints about the use of federal properties like the White House as a partisan stage and said it would ensure all staff and participants will be in compliance with the Hatch Act. The president and vice president are excluded under the law, although there could be implications for staff depending on their level of involvement.

The speech by Melania Trump, who has largely shunned the spotlight and kept a low profile for a first lady, in a Rose Garden she renovated is likely to offer an upbeat, warmer view of a president who was repeatedly portrayed at last week’s Democratic convention as a force for chaos and darkness. Trump is expected to join her.

She will also be looking to avoid the mistakes of the 2016 Republican convention, when her address included lines plagiarized from Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech.

Biden, 77, leads Trump, 74, in opinion polls, and Democrats made the case at their convention that Biden was needed to bring steady and calm leadership to the White House amid a coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 176,000 Americans and severely damaged the economy.

Also speaking on Tuesday are Trump’s son, Eric, and daughter, Tiffany, as well as public officials such as Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and U.S. Senator Rand Paul.

A parade of Americans will back Trump’s policies and attest to his positive impact, including anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson, Maine lobsterman Jason Joyce and Mary Ann Mendoza, whose son was killed by an illegal immigrant in a head-on car collision.

Questions overshadow Melania Trump, Pompeo speeches on Republican Day Two