Senate Confirms C.I.A. Chief Mike Pompeo to Be Secretary of State

Senate Confirms C.I.A. Chief Mike Pompeo to Be Secretary of State
# 26 April 2018 19:45 (UTC +04:00)

The Senate on Thursday easily confirmed Mike Pompeo as the nation’s 70th secretary of state, elevating the current C.I.A. director and an outspoken foreign policy hawk to be the nation’s top diplomat, APA reports quoting The New York Times.

In the end, the 57-to-42 tally lacked the drama of other nail-biting confirmation votes in the Trump era. Earlier this week, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, the nominee’s main Republican antagonist, bowed to pressure from President Trump to drop his objections. Ultimately, seven members of the Senate Democratic caucus — five of whom face re-election this year in states that Mr. Trump won in 2016 — joined a united Republican conference to support Mr. Pompeo’s confirmation.

Mr. Pompeo was expected to be sworn in almost immediately after the vote, after which he planned to dash to Joint Base Andrews, where a plane was waiting to fly him to Brussels on his first trip abroad as secretary of state for a meeting of NATO allies.

His agenda is already packed, with crucial deadlines in the coming weeks involving Russia, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela. And he must face these challenges while trying to a repair a State Department damaged under the tenure of Rex W. Tillerson, his predecessor, and with crucial alliances frayed during the Trump presidency.

Senators were mindful of the need to get Mr. Pompeo in place, given the crush of work facing him. His confirmation seemed all but assured after Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, a Democrat who is running for re-election in a state that Mr. Trump won by a wide margin, said last week that she would support him.

Four other Democrats who are also running for re-election in states won by Mr. Trump — Senators Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Bill Nelson of Florida — also voted to confirm Mr. Pompeo.

For Democrats who will be on the ballot in Trump states, a vote against Mr. Pompeo could have exposed them to attacks from the Republicans, including Mr. Trump, eager to label them obstructionists.

Mr. Pompeo also managed to avoid what would have been an embarrassing rebuke on his way into the new post, as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had seemed likely to not recommend his confirmation. But Mr. Paul, an outspoken foe of interventionist foreign policy, relented just before the committee’s vote on Monday.

As secretary of state, Mr. Pompeo will also have to navigate the rivalries within the Trump administration. At the White House, John R. Bolton, the administration’s third national security adviser in a little over a year, is presiding over another purge of top assistants. Mr. Pompeo must forge a working relationship with Mr. Bolton as he creates alliances with the White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and the president’s son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner.

Mr. Pompeo’s early military career — he attended West Point and became a tank commander before leaving for Harvard Law School — could endear him to Mr. Kelly and Mr. Mattis, both former four-star generals.

But handling Mr. Kushner will be a delicate matter. Mr. Kushner’s diplomatic portfolio includes forging a Middle East peace deal and safeguarding the relationship with Mexico even as Mr. Trump pursues his hard-line immigration policies and wall on the southern border.

Mr. Pompeo will also have to mend fences with the American ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, whose relationship with Mr. Tillerson was so strained that she ordered his portrait removed from her New York offices. She was absent from this week’s state dinner with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Mr. Pompeo’s year of service as the director of the C.I.A. has given him a running start. He forged an unlikely bond with Mr. Trump while giving the president daily intelligence briefings. The trust between them is so strong that Mr. Trump sent Mr. Pompeo to Pyongyang last month on a secret trip to pave the way for a high-stakes summit with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, now expected to take place in June.

But first, Mr. Pompeo must deal with Russia.

Within hours of his landing in Europe, he will preside over a breakfast meeting at NATO headquarters to discuss new measures to counter an increasingly aggressive Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, who U.S. intelligence officials say has ordered the annexation of Crimea, intervention in Ukraine, the hacking of the American election in 2016 and murders or attempted murders of countless rivals, including a former Russian spy living in Britain. He has maintained his military and diplomatic support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad despite the massacre of civilians and the use of chemical weapons.

The gathering will thrust Mr. Pompeo into the core contradiction of the Trump presidency, which is staffed with hawks pushing for an increasingly tough line against Moscow but is headed by a president who hopes for improving ties while facing an investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, into whether his campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election campaign.

In two weeks, Mr. Trump is also set to announce whether he will exit the Iran nuclear deal, struck by President Barack Obama and the leaders of Russia, Britain, France, Germany and China. Leaving the deal would further fray ties with Europe, but failing to scrap the deal would violate a core campaign pledge.

Mr. Pompeo was once a voluble member of the Republican chorus opposing the pact. But in his confirmation hearing, Mr. Pompeo promised to try to preserve the accord, one of several pledges he made that were at odds with his record as a four-term Tea Party congressman from Kansas. This week, Mr. Trump also signaled he may preserve the deal.

In addition, Mr. Pompeo will have to help forge a strategy to deal with a splintering Syria, something administration officials have openly acknowledged they lack, decide whether to launch a trade war with China, and choose whether to impose new sanctions against Venezuela following the expected re-election of President Nicolas Maduro on May 20 in a campaign widely seen as undemocratic.

Although a decided hawk and more socially conservative than much of his staff, Mr. Pompeo’s expected arrival has been greeted with quiet relief in Foggy Bottom, which has yet to recover from the tenure of Mr. Tillerson, who spent $12 million on a corporate-style downsizing that drove away many of the nation’s diplomats and left behind a demoralized and disorganized staff.

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