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How Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo nearly blew it at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

The committee was expected to vote against him.

Pompeo smiles as he walks to a meeting on Capitol Hill April 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images.
Pompeo smiles as he walks to a meeting on Capitol Hill April 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was expected to vote against the nomination of Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State on Monday — which would have been the first such vote for a secretary of state nominee — but Sen. Rand Paul changed his mind at the eleventh hour.

CIA Director Pompeo, who would replace Rex Tillerson (who was fired in March), has thus far not received the support of a single Democrat on the SFRC.

Bracing for the SFRC vote, Trump tweeted on Monday morning that it was partisan politics, not Pompeo’s own track record, that was standing in the way of his confirmation:

Despite Monday’s close vote, Pompeo is still on track be confirmed by the Senate later this week. But anyone listening to his five-hour confirmation hearing before the SFRC on April 12 might be surprised to hear that his confirmation would stand a chance in the Senate.

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Pompeo faced several hours of mostly tough questioning on his views, and by all measures, failed to give straight answers.

He also did not provide much in the way of coherent foreign policy answers. That wasn’t the worst of it, though, as far as several of the senators questioning him were concerned.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) repeatedy asked Pompeo if he would “champion diplomacy” and push back against Trump’s “worst instincts.”

Pompeo gave no indication that he would stand strong against the president should he move to fire Special Council Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election, or on a potential preventive attack against North Korea (something National Security Advisor John Bolton advocates).

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It was also clear, under questioning by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), that Pompeo still does not support same-sex marriage, and has a major Islamophobia problem.

Even as he admitted that Iran has at no point violated the terms of the nuclear deal, and is not pursuing a nuclear weapon, Pompeo said the deal needs to be “fixed.” In 2014, he was in support of attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities and wrote in 2016 that the deal puts the United States at “increased risk.”

But despite all of this, Pompeo seems to have the support he needs to get confirmed by the Senate, having at least two Democrat votes already in the bag. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), who is up for reelection in a largely pro-Trump state, announced her support for Pompeo on Thursday. On Monday, Sen. Joe Mancin (D-WV) also said he would vote to confirm Pompeo.

If indeed confirmed later this week, Pompeo, the country’s top diplomat, will be in the position of discussing human rights with other countries, even as he has in the past supported the U.S. torture program, said that Guantanamo Bay is a “goldmine” for intelligence, and called for the execution of whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Pompeo would also be tasked with setting the country’s refugee policy, even though in 2016, he co-sponsored a bill that would have banned all refugees from resettlement in the United States pending changes to resettlement procedures, including having the Government Accountability Office report on refugees receiving benefits under certain programs, like Medicaid.

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In a statement following Pompeo’s confirmation hearing, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) said that she does not believe he is the right person for the job:

“The Secretary of State is a very different role than CIA director, and it’s not the kind of position you learn on the job. I sense a certain disdain for diplomacy in Mike Pompeo that I believe disqualifies him from being our next senior diplomat. I urge President Trump to nominate someone capable of proudly representing all of America in the pursuit of peace.”

Additionally, Pompeo failed to disclose that a company he owned did business with a state-owned Chinese company.

He also did not serve in the Gulf War — a claim that has been made by those around him. Pompeo hasn’t made the claim himself, but nor has he corrected it. The claim, reports Quartz, was repeated by several major news outlets, and appears to have originated in an an anonymously-edited Wikipedia entry.

The IP address linked to the edit seems to have come from Richmond, Virginia, where the CIA has facilities.