'There are certainly 'optics' issues here.'
Emails show Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeatedly mixed official government business with personal matters, according to a report released Thursday, even as he is pushing to release more of his predecessor's emails.
His wife, Susan Pompeo, regularly used her personal email to direct State Department officials on travel plans and restaurant reservations, as well as for a youth visit that did not appear to directly relate to the core mission of the State Department, NBC News reported, citing newly obtained emails.
One set of emails showed that Susan Pompeo requested a number of tasks for State Department staffers for a multiday visit to Washington for wealthy CEOs under 45 and members of the Kansas chapter of the Young Presidents' Organization.
"There are certainly 'optics' issues here. It can look like Pompeo is using the office to ingratiate himself with others, possibly future supporters in a 2024 White House race," law professor Stephen Gillers told the network.
Last month, emails obtained by McClatchy showed Susan Pompeo wanted senior State Department staff to help complete their personal Christmas holiday cards.
"If staff are helping her, it sounds like she can direct staff. It's odd that someone who is not a government official or an employee is allowed to direct actual government employees," Kathleen Clark, a government ethics expert at the Washington University in St. Louis, told CNN.
Susan Pompeo's role at the CIA was a "red flag," Clark added.
Former State Department staffers also told Politico that Susan Pompeo directed them for personal errands, with one saying that "decorating became a very large, time-consuming project."
Congress has been investigating the firing of Steven Linick, the State Department's inspector general, who one Democratic aide said "was looking into the Secretary's misuse of a political appointee at the Department to perform personal tasks for himself and Mrs. Pompeo."
Just last week, the nonprofit group American Oversight published a watchdog report that found that the secretary of state often used his personal email for official government communications during his time as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The Washington D.C.-based group reviewed about 400 pages of his personal emails as CIA director in 2017 and 2018, saying they "reveal a problematic amount of official business being conducted over private email."
"This extensive use of personal email for agency business raises questions about what other activities Pompeo conducted over personal email, including at the State Department—and about whether efforts need to be undertaken to preserve government records in personal accounts," the group's report said.
Earlier this week, Pompeo vowed to release more of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's emails.
"We'll continue to do the right thing, we’ll make sure that all these emails get to the right place," he said Wednesday. "We will do everything we can to make sure that the American people get a chance to see as much as we can equitably produce."
After a 2019 State Department probe of Clinton’s more than 33,000 emails, investigators found "no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.