(The Hill) – Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised concerns about the ties Mehmet Oz, former President Trump’s endorsed candidate in the Pennsylvania Senate race, has to Turkey in a press briefing arranged by Oz’s chief opponent in the race.
Pompeo, who’s supporting Oz’s rival, Dave McCormick, in the Keystone State, held the briefing the same day Trump is expected to stump in Pennsylvania for Oz. The briefing was first advertised by the McCormick campaign.
The former Secretary of State, who served under Trump, said McCormick is a “patriot,” unlike Oz, whom Pompeo accused of having ties to the Turkish government.
The briefing marks a notable escalation by Pompeo, who has fueled speculation in recent months that he’s mulling a presidential run in 2024. Trump is also largely expected to mount another White House bid.
“Dave would make an extraordinary United States senator,” Pompeo said during the briefing.
“We criticize American candidates all the time because they didn’t vote,” Pompeo said. “This is different from that. Not only did he not engage in the American [process] but he engaged in the Turkish political process. That raises in my mind a lot of judgments about his priority.”
ABC News first reported Wednesday that Oz, who holds Turkish citizenship, voted in Turkey’s 2018 election despite previously saying he was never politically involved in the country “in any capacity.” His campaign spokesperson Brittany Yanick confirmed to ABC that Oz had voted in the election but denied that the vote amounted to “political involvement.”
Oz has claimed he has maintained his Turkish citizenship to care for his “ailing mother,” but has said he will renounce his Turkish citizenship if elected.
Pompeo said during the briefing that he wanted to answer people’s questions about concerns surrounding Oz’s ties to Turkey since if he were elected to Congress, he would receive a security clearance with much less scrutiny than civilians who apply for clearances.
“Maybe it’s all innocent, maybe it’s all straight up, but we and the people of Pennsylvania and the Americans who he will be representing as one of the 100 members of the United States Senate voting on important national security matters need to understand the scope and depth of his relationship with the Turkish government,” Pompeo said.
Oz also owns property in Turkey and scored an endorsement contract with Turkish airlines, which Pompeo brought up during the briefing.
Turkey’s government has become increasingly authoritarian in recent years, and its relationship with the U.S. soured as it became friendlier with Russia.
“This isn’t about whether it’s lawful, it’s about who is best suited to be the next United States Senator from Pennsylvania that’s been represented by a patriotic American conservative for an awfully long time,” Pompeo said.
Oz’s campaign shot back at the remarks, calling them “pathetic and xenophobic.”
“These are pathetic and xenophobic attacks on Dr. Oz by David McCormick, who should be ashamed of himself,” campaign communications director Brittany Yanick said in a statement. “Now that he lost President Trump’s endorsement, he’s resorted to sad and desperate attacks that are no different than the tropes used against Catholics and Jews. Dr. Oz has already said when elected to the Senate he would renounce his citizenship. There is no security issue whatsoever, and David McCormick knows that Dr. Oz has maintained his dual citizenship to make it easier to help care for his mother who has Alzheimer’s and lives there.”