Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday night endorsed President Trump at the 2020 Republican National Convention, in a video shot earlier in Jerusalem (the secretary was in Sudan at the time of the airing). Pompeo said Trump would keep America’s strong presence around the world.
“The primary Constitutional function of the national government is ensuring that your family and mine are safe and enjoy the freedom to live, to work, to learn and to worship as they choose,” Pompeo said, adding, “Delivering on this duty to keep us safe and our freedoms intact, this president has led bold initiatives in nearly every corner of the world.”
Democrats protested the speech, which took place happened during a diplomatic mission, in open defiance of the Hatch Act of 1939, “An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities.” The law’s main provision prohibits all employees in the executive branch of the federal government, except the president and vice president, from engaging in political activity.
The Supreme Court has declined several times to hear challenges to the Hatch Act and has twice upheld its constitutionality. In a 1947 case, a divided court found that Congress had properly exercised its authority as long as it had not affected voting rights. It was a liberal Justice, William O. Douglas, who objected to the assertion that “clean politics” required the act’s restrictions, writing in his dissent: “It would hardly seem to be imperative to muzzle millions of citizens because some of them, if left to their constitutional freedoms, might corrupt the political process.”
In 1973, a 6 to 3 decision found the act neither too broad nor unclear. Again, the court’s three most liberal justices, Douglas, William J. Brennan, and Thurgood Marshall, who dissented. Douglas wrote: “It is no concern of government what an employee does in his or her spare time, whether religion, recreation, social work or politics is his hobby, unless what he or she does impairs efficiency or other facets of the merits of his job.”
A State Department spokesperson said Secretary Pompeo would be speaking in a personal capacity – which is what the liberal justices suggested as well.