Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosted a dinner on the State Division for visitors with ties to Kansas—the state the place he had been urged to run for Senate—considered one of a collection of personal occasions that Democrats in Congress at the moment are scrutinizing as Mr. Pompeo comes underneath hearth for recommending the elimination of his company’s watchdog.
Democrats are analyzing whether or not Mr. Pompeo used taxpayer assets for private functions, and are partly targeted on a collection of personal occasions, often called “Madison dinners,” sponsored by Mr. Pompeo and involving political, diplomatic and media figures.
That scrutiny has intensified within the days since Mr. Pompeo suggested President Trump to fireplace Steve Linick, the State Division’s inspector normal, whereas underneath investigation for allegedly utilizing authorities workers for private errands and for his emergency declaration to promote arms to Center East allies, sidestepping Congress. Mr. Pompeo on Wednesday denied that Mr. Linick’s firing was retaliation for these investigations.
Among the many attendees on the Kansas-specific dinner on the State Division a number of months in the past was Sen. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.). The senator, who’s retiring, mentioned “it was an actual deal with” to be hosted within the historic diplomatic rooms, together with different visitors who had Kansas ties.
“All we did was discuss Kansas, Wichita, only a bunch of tales that we shared and had fun,” Mr. Roberts mentioned. “There was nothing extra to it than that, and I feel he’s had a collection of these.”
Democrats contend that the Kansas occasion and different dinners, which weren’t on Mr. Pompeo’s public schedule, served political relatively than foreign-policy goals because the secretary builds a community for a attainable future run for president or Senate.
The State Division didn’t reply to requests for touch upon the dinners.
“What kind of foreign-affairs work goes on in Kansas?” requested Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.), the highest Democrat on the Senate Overseas Relations Committee.
Mr. Menendez has requested for an inventory of the dinners, visitors, remarks delivered by Mr. Pompeo, their price and information of company approvals. Home Oversight Committee and Home Overseas Affairs Committee Democrats additionally despatched Mr. Pompeo a letter Thursday asking for visitor lists for the Madison dinners and “all ethics steerage sought or obtained relating” to the gatherings.
Mr. Menendez additionally sent letters to the Office of Special Counsel in October and December looking for an examination of attainable improper political exercise by Mr. Pompeo. The missives cited the secretary’s journey to Kansas and conferences with potential political donors, together with throughout official journey. He mentioned Wednesday that he hadn’t obtained a response.
A visitor at one of many different Madison dinners characterised them as “clearly smooth diplomacy” and mentioned attendees included a consultant of a overseas nation.
The Kansas dinner attended by Mr. Roberts passed off a couple of month after Mr. Pompeo advised Senate Majority Chief Mitch McConnell that he wasn’t interested in running for Senate in Kansas this year. The secretary represented the Wichita space within the U.S. Home earlier than becoming a member of the Trump administration, and Mr. McConnell had been recruiting Mr. Pompeo to run to exchange Mr. Roberts.
Mr. McConnell and different Republicans within the state and in Washington are nervous that if Mr. Pompeo doesn’t leap in to clear the crowded GOP main area, they might lose a Senate race in Kansas for the primary time since 1932. That might dramatically enhance the percentages of Democrats profitable management of the Senate in November.
Fundraising is a big a part of Mr. McConnell’s eagerness for the secretary to run for Senate, an individual accustomed to the matter mentioned. Republican candidates in Kansas have struggled to raise as much money as Democratic candidate Barbara Bollier, and Mr. McConnell believes a Pompeo marketing campaign would save the Nationwide Republican Senatorial Committee—the Senate GOP’s marketing campaign arm—between $15 million and $20 million, the individual mentioned.
Mr. Pompeo’s frequent journeys to Kansas as secretary of state, interviews with native information retailers and obvious courting of potential marketing campaign donors stoked speculation last year that he deliberate to enter the race.
However an individual near Mr. Pompeo advised The Wall Road Journal final week that the secretary nonetheless had no plans for a Senate bid. The submitting deadline for the race is June 1.
Mr. Roberts mentioned he didn’t see something incorrect with the dinner he attended, which he mentioned supplied an escape from partisan rancor. “The extra that individuals can get collectively off the ground of the Senate, that’s an excellent factor,” he mentioned.
The subject of the Kansas Senate race got here up on the dinner, Mr. Roberts mentioned. “We kidded about that complete factor,” he mentioned.
Mr. Menendez mentioned Wednesday he was conscious of the Kansas-themed dinner, and mentioned the occasions hosted by Mr. Pompeo on the State Division “appear to take the form of these [people] who you’d convey collectively for those who have been considering of operating for workplace.”
Mr. Pompeo dismissed Mr. Menendez’s inquiry Wednesday and challenged the senator’s personal ethics report. Mr. Menendez was indicted in 2015 for his alleged participation in a yearslong bribery scheme involving a Florida eye doctor. A federal choose declared a mistrial within the case in November 2017 after a jury failed to succeed in a verdict.
Mr. Pompeo’s internet hosting of the occasions has prompted criticism from some former U.S. diplomats, who mentioned they have been held to stricter requirements concerning using taxpayer funds.
Brett Bruen, who served as a U.S. diplomat within the Obama administration, mentioned many of the visitors reported to have attended the dinners “shouldn’t have an apparent foreign-policy experience,” whereas acknowledging that there could also be conditions the place skilled athletes may very well be recruited to function sports activities ambassadors, for instance.
“Merely to have celebrities or CEOs over to the State Division—and particularly these which might be nearly totally domestically targeted—is kind of questionable,” he mentioned.
However Thomas Pickering, whose prolonged diplomatic profession included stints as United Nations ambassador and undersecretary of state for political affairs, mentioned there may be precedent for the secretary internet hosting dinners.
“Madeleine Albright gave frequent dinners through which she invited generally outsiders to return and touch upon overseas coverage to her and to members of her rapid workers,” he mentioned, noting that he had attended a number of the dinners, which have been restricted to 10 or at most 15 attendees.
Patrick Kennedy, who served as undersecretary of state for administration in each the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, mentioned that in evaluating the propriety of such an occasion, he would study the acknowledged goal of the occasion and an inventory of its attendees.
“If the subject material was advancing U.S. national-security pursuits, and the visitor listing was opinion leaders, editorial-page writers, think-tank individuals, members of Congress, then I might regard it as a reputable exercise of the secretary of state,” he mentioned, recalling that former secretaries John Kerry and Hillary Clinton had hosted some non-public dinners.
Some Democrats on the Senate Overseas Relations Committee have been extra involved about Mr. Pompeo’s function in the Trump administration’s invoking of an emergency last year to power by way of the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Democratic and a few Republican lawmakers expressed opposition on the time to the Saudi arms deal, which the administration justified by citing escalating and imminent safety threats posed by Iran. Democrats mentioned the declare of an emergency involving Iran was a ruse and final June requested Mr. Linick to analyze.
“I’ve by no means understood why this administration is so tight with the Saudis, and if the inspector normal had a lead on what was responsible for this cozy relationship, we have to learn about it,” mentioned Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.).
“On the opposite stuff, I imply, ought to the dinners have been on a schedule? Sure,” Mr. Murphy mentioned. “However I feel the secretary of state in all probability ought to have the ability to have social dinners with essential individuals.”
The State Division hasn’t responded to requests for touch upon the emergency declaration made in Might 2019. Mr. Pompeo on Wednesday declined to reply questions on Mr. Linick’s inquiry into the declaration or the arms switch. He mentioned he had no data of the character or scope of the inspector normal’s investigations.
David Kensinger, a longtime Kansas GOP marketing consultant, mentioned he believed the investigation by Mr. Menendez was “100%” supposed to discourage Mr. Pompeo from operating for Senate in Kansas.
“These questions solely appear to return up round marketing campaign deadlines,” he mentioned.