Senate approves Mike Pompeo to lead Trump’s State Department
Oren Dorell, USA TODAY
The Senate has narrowly confirmed Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state Time
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday confirmed CIA Director Mike Pompeo as President Trump’s next secretary of State.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said after the 57-42 vote that Pompeo will play an important role in upcoming negotiations between the United States and North Korea.
“In fact he’s already played a role as director of the CIA,” Cornyn said, referring to the secret trip that Pompeo made to North Korea to meet with leader Kim Jong Un in late March.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said he worries that Pompeo appeared to dismiss the role of diplomacy in the past and to espouse views on reproductive and LGBTQ rights that demonstrate values outside the U.S. mainstream and “will hamper American diplomacy.”
While Blumenthal praised the diplomatic opening Pompeo made with North Korea as director of the CIA, he said “the success of those negotiations will depend on diplomacy, not spies, and he has no experience in diplomacy.”
He urged Pompeo to rely on State Department diplomats “with the experience and expertise to be successful around the world.”
Before the vote, senators called Pompeo alternately undiplomatic and “uniquely qualified” as the nation’s top diplomat.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., cited past statements by Pompeo calling for military strikes on Iran as a solution to its disputed nuclear program, calling out American Muslim leaders as tacit supporters of terrorism and calling for U.S. withdrawal from international agreements on Iran’s nuclear deal and climate change.
“It’s incumbent on our next secretary of State to work with our allies in Europe, with all of our allies,” Cardin said. Pompeo “suggests we should pull out of the agreement if we can’t change it, even though Iran is in compliance with that agreement. That’s not diplomacy.”
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Monday along party lines to recommend Pompeo for secretary of State. All the Democrats on the committee opposed Pompeo’s nomination, primarily because of his hawkish views.
Pompeo, a West Point graduate and former Army captain, was elected three times to the U.S. House from Kansas. He’s led the CIA since Trump came to office in January 2017.
During his confirmation hearing, Pompeo said he would rebuild the ranks of the State Department, which has seen dramatic departures among senior staff under ousted secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Trump fired Tillerson in March after months of disagreements.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., urged his colleagues to vote in favor of Pompeo, who he said is “uniquely qualified.”
“We need Mike Pompeo and we need him now,” Roberts said. “He will be forthright, he will be independent and yes he will be diplomatic.”
Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noted that a NATO ministerial meeting is happening Friday in Brussels. “Us passing him out today will allow Pompeo to participate in this important mission,” Corker said.
“I didn’t know him well before this nomination, he said. “Through the process of going through the confirmation hearing I think he’s going to be exemplary.”
The vote on Pompeo’s nomination comes as the United States faces multiple crises around the world coming to a head next month.
President Trump is preparing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in hopes of ending the North’s nuclear weapons program in late May or early June. Trump is preparing to make a decision on whether to abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement for a May 12 deadline. And the White House announced it will time its plan to move the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14.
The Trump administration continues to bump heads with Russia over a growing list of issues, including Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and Moscow’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, who the U.S. says used chemical weapons on his own people.