WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is quietly relaunching his extravagant, taxpayer-funded “Madison Dinners” through the coronavirus pandemic, at the same time as Congress scrutinizes his use of presidency assets to entertain CEOs, big-dollar Republican donors and tv anchors.
Pompeo’s Madison Dinners, which an NBC Information investigation revealed in Could, had been on pause since March, when the nation shut down due to the coronavirus. However now they’re again, with a dinner scheduled for Monday and not less than three others on the calendar in September and October, two U.S. officers mentioned.
This time, Pompeo even initially organized to carry Monday’s dinner at Blair Home, the famed presidential visitor home simply steps from the White Home. It was solely on the final minute that the dinner was moved again to the State Division as a result of Blair Home turned unavailable.
It is unclear what coronavirus precautions, if any, are being taken, significantly contemplating that the dinner can be indoors and friends presumably will not be sporting masks whereas consuming and consuming. A State Division official mentioned friends had been inspired to get COVID-19 assessments earlier than the dinner however was not sure whether or not that was necessary.
The State Division declined to reply questions in regards to the resumption of the dinners, however it defended them as “international policy-focused social gatherings” that replicate “the best custom of diplomatic and American hospitality and beauty.”
“The Secretary appears to be like ahead to persevering with these Madison Dinners as they’re an vital element of the execution of his duties as Secretary of State,” State Division spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus mentioned.
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The State Division additionally declined to reveal who will attend Monday’s dinner, which was first reported by Politico, though a U.S. official mentioned the Indian ambassador to the U.S. was amongst these invited. The Indian Embassy in Washington did not instantly reply to a request for remark.
The sooner dinners have been held within the State Division’s iconic Diplomatic Reception Rooms, a museum of U.S. diplomacy that features the Benjamin Franklin State Eating Room and the Martha Washington Girls’ Lounge.
However as Pompeo sought to renew the dinners this fall, the officers mentioned, he sought a location even nearer to the middle of energy in Washington: Blair Home, the place international heads of state usually keep when visiting Washington and the place the president-elect stays within the days earlier than transferring in to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Pompeo’s spouse, Susan Pompeo, who’s deeply concerned in planning the dinners, even carried out a walk-through of Blair Home upfront of Monday’s dinner, officers mentioned. However the plans have been scuttled when the visitor home turned unavailable; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who’s visiting Washington, is staying there this week.
Company for Monday’s dinner, who had already been invited to attend at Blair Home, have been notified that the situation was being moved again to the State Division, folks conversant in the invites mentioned.
Officers mentioned it was nonetheless attainable that future Madison Dinners might be held at Blair Home, together with dinners scheduled for Sept. 24 and 25 and for Oct. 26. Pompeo’s plans to make use of Blair Home for the Madison Dinners hasn’t been beforehand reported.
The secretary and his spouse held two dozen of the lavish dinners earlier than the coronavirus hit. Among the many invitees have been Supreme Court docket justices, billionaires and celebrities, along with international dignitaries. Each single Home or Senate member who was invited was a Republican, in line with a master invitation list obtained by NBC Information.
The dinners had raised issues amongst State Division officers concerned in planning them that they have been utilizing federal assets to domesticate a donor and supporter base for Pompeo’s future political ambitions.
After NBC Information reported on the dinners, the Home Oversight and Authorities Reform Committee and the Home Overseas Affairs Committee requested the State Division for paperwork, value info and any ethics steering the division had sought. The State Division’s inspector basic has additionally been conducting an investigation into potential misuse of presidency assets by Pompeo and his spouse.