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Balance of Power

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's full speech at the Republican National Convention

Claim: Pompeo’s convention speech violated federal law. Fact check: True

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speech's on Tuesday at the Republican National Convention was unprecedented. No prior sitting secretary of state had given a speech at a party convention. Diplomats and federal employees have typically stayed away from partisan activity and there are rules in place that prevent federal employees from being involved in partisan politics. The Hatch Act, passed in 1939, prohibits all federal employees — except the president and vice president — from engaging in various partisan political activities. For example, the law states that federal employees cannot "use their official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the result of an election." Pompeo did not refer to himself as secretary of state in the video, but he did record the video during an official visit to Israel.

Since Pompeo is part of the National Security Council, he is subject to further restrictions. Such federal employees who have more restrictions cannot "take an active part in partisan political campaigns, by, for example: Campaigning for or against a candidate or slate of candidates. Making campaign speeches or engaging in other campaign activities to elect partisan candidates." Pompeo violated both of these restrictions.

Additionally, a State Department memo on Hatch Act restrictions from December 2019, specifically states, "Senate confirmed Presidential appointees may not even attend a political party convention or convention-related event." Pompeo was confirmed by the Senate as secretary of state in 2018.

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Claim: Universal mail-in voting has led to widespread voter fraud. Fact check: False

Nine states and Washington, D.C., will mail ballots directly to voters (what is known as universal mail-in voting), accounting for 44 million voters — half of President Trump's claim. Several states, including Colorado, Nevada and Washington have conducted primary elections in which ballots were mailed to all eligible voters. In Nevada some ballots were rejected largely because they were not properly filled out, but there were no reports of widespread voter fraud in those states

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Balance of Power

Claim: Trump’s executive orders on Covid-19 economic relief are illegal. Fact check: Mixed

On Saturday, President Trump signed three memorandums and one executive order that are designed to help Americans dealing with the economic downturn as a result of the coronavirus lock-down. The three memorandums address student loan payment relief, deferring payroll tax obligations, and using emergency funds to provide economic relief to states and people who are unemployed. The executive order deals with rent relief. The legality of the memorandum on the use of emergency funds for relief has been questioned, and may be on shakier legal ground compared to the other measures. The three other actions may fall within the president's purview because the president has the authority to delay student loan payments and defer taxes in times of disaster, and the order on rent relief is less sweeping than some initially thought.

The order on rent relief states: "Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of CDC shall consider whether any measures temporarily halting residential evictions of any tenants for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19." The memorandum also states that the heads of other agencies should identify funds to be used to help renters and should try to help renters avoid eviction. It does not state exactly what actions or funds are to be used, and it doesn't impose strict requirements on these agencies to take a specific action.

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Trump may not have the authority to create enhanced unemployment programs because the Stafford Disaster Relief Act allows the president to give unemployment aid only to those not eligible for other unemployment benefits, and it does not allow the amount given to unemployed people to exceed the normal amount of unemployment benefits given to them by the state.

In the memorandums on student loans and tax deferment, Trump referenced specific laws that allow the president to delay or defer payments in times of disaster or economic hardship. The president can delay student loans for up to three years for people who experience economic hardship. Additionally, the president can defer collection of federal taxes during a disaster.