Confirm Mike Pompeo?

CIA Director is Trump's choice for secretary of state

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The past is haunting Mike Pompeo, Trump's secretary of state nominee

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

There is a strange irony when Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state, reaches out to Hillary Clinton.

The former secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee has good reason to ignore the CIA director - but yet she has been civil, despite her grievances.

Mike Pompeo is the same man who called Clinton's response to the Benghazi attacks in 2012 "morally reprehensible". She underwent 11 hours of questioning before the House Select Committee, and the then-Representative for Kansas was a stand-out with his grilling.

He has also reached out to her successor, John Kerry. The Republican once liked a tweet from his that branded Kerry a "traitor". Pompeo has contacted every other living occupant of the office for guidance. Clinton has been willing to help, according to Politico.

If, and when, Pompeo is confirmed as Trump's new secretary of state, he will take the helm of a State Department he has repeatedly attacked. Foreign Policy argues that he must "answer for the false claims and recycled conspiracies he propagated".

The inquiry, which failed to find any wrongdoing from Clinton, Barack Obama or any high-ranking member of the administration, did not change the public perception of the tragedy, but it undermined the legitimacy of the State Department and raised questions about the competence of its personnel. "The result is," they conclude, "a diplomatic corps that is bruised, demoralised, and risk-averse."

The past is coming back to haunt Pompeo. This was evident in last Thursday's confirmation hearing when Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked which Mike Pompeo he will be asked to vote on. The most telling moment of the hearing, Vox argues, came at the very end. Menendez stopped asking questions, and instead compared the answers to what Pompeo had given at the hearing to what he has previously said, ticking off contradiction after contradiction. The CIA director attempted to paint himself as a less extreme version, despite his hardline opinions on the use of military force, to Islam and LGBT issues.

Pompeo's confirmation was supposed to be a relatively easy one, but the nominee failed to win over any Democrats during his hearing. This may result in an unprecedented move - the CIA chief could be the first secretary of state nominee to receive an unfavourable committee vote since 1925. According to CNN, there are three Democrats - and at least one Republican - on the panel who have signalled they will vote against Pompeo.

Nominations can advance to full confirmation without a favourable recommendation from committee, but it is highly unusual. While there have been no secretary of state nominees following this route in 93 years, other nominees for other roles have squeaked through. However, according to a Congressional Research Service report, from 1987 to 2016, no nominee was confirmed after being reported unfavourably by a committee.

Mike Pompeo is not the first, and he will likely not be the last, person in the Trump administration to have the past haunting them. Like his president, he is controversial, divisive, and combative - and that is perhaps why Donald Trump likes him so much. He may survive the confirmation hearing, but the secretary of state nominee is viewed unfavourably in an unfavourable administration.

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