Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regularly held taxpayer-funded, 500-guest formal dinners — and President Trump reportedly knew nothing about them.
Until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Pompeo often invited hundreds of guests to the U.S. State Department for his "Madison Dinners," referring to how former President James Madison often met with foreign diplomats over a meal. But unlike Madison, Pompeo invited more than just diplomats to his dinners, and sent the bill for food, entertainment, and goody bags to the U.S. government, NBC News reports.
Pompeo held about two dozen Madison dinners since he took office in 2018, and they were scheduled through October until the coronavirus hit, NBC News reports via dinner guest lists and State Department calendars. About 30 percent of invitees worked in politics, another 29 percent came from corporate backgrounds, a quarter were in media and entertainment, and just 14 percent were actually involved in foreign policy. Some of those less diplomatic invitees included Reba McEntire, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Fox News host Brian Kilmeade, and they all enjoyed harp music and embossed Madison Dinner pens and journals to take home.
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NBC News' report comes just after Pompeo fired State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, who was investigating whether Pompeo made a political appointee carry out his personal errands. It's unclear if Linick was looking into the dinners, but one senior Trump administration official said "if the president knew about any of this, he would have fired Pompeo months ago."
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus called the dinners "a world-class opportunity to discuss the mission of the State Department and the complex foreign policy matters facing our exceptional nation," saying each guest "has a stake in America and its leadership in the world." Read more at NBC News.
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