FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media at the State Department in Washington, DC, U.S., May 20, 2020. Nicholas Kamm/Pool via REUTERS
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday accused a leading Senate Democrat of “hackery” for questioning whether Pompeo violated a law restricting officials’ political activities, saying an investigation found no evidence he had done so.
In a letter to Senator Bob Menendez, top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Pompeo also accused journalists of “slander” for reporting on the lawmaker’s request for the review by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
The agency investigates alleged breaches of the 1939 Hatch Act barring federal workers from engaging in political activities while acting in their official capacities.
Menendez in October asked the OSC to assess the legality of three official visits that Pompeo made to his home state of Kansas at a time that news reports said the Republican former congressman was mulling a U.S. Senate run.
The State Department on Thursday released a copy of Pompeo’s letter to Menendez. It also released a Jan. 21, 2020, letter to Pompeo from the OSC in which the agency said it found he was not “currently” a Senate candidate and there was “no evidence to conclude that you violated the Hatch Act.”
Pompeo wrote that Menendez appeared not to acknowledge that finding in a recent interview and that he wanted to make sure the lawmaker was aware of it.
“The OSC response to your hackery makes clear your continued effort to politicize legitimate and important diplomatic and national security activity was without merit,” Pompeo wrote.
Zachary Kurz, an OSC spokesman, said a copy of the letter had previously been sent to Menendez.
“Clearly the Secretary of State feels deeply disturbed by the ongoing oversight work of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” Menendez said in a statement. “High-level temper tantrums will not stop the committee from conducting our oversight responsibilities.”
Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Editing by Cynthia Osterman