Tag Archives: Mike Pompeo

It’s the intent that matters

James Clapper is the expert on national security and matters relating to deep-cover operations.

I am not.

Still, I want to take issue with an assertion that the former director of national intelligence has said about the Russian meddling in our 2016 presidential election. Clapper has said the Russians actually tilted the election in Donald John Trump’s favor; he said their attack on our electoral process was decisive that Trump essentially is an illegitimate president.

I have trouble buying into that assumption.

Clapper says the Russians targeted three states that Trump won over Hillary Clinton: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Trump won those states by a grand total of 77,000 votes; their electoral vote count put him over the top and, thus, he was elected president.

My own view — albeit from afar — is that Clinton’s last-minute strategy backfired. She didn’t visit Wisconsin after being nominated by the Democrats. She paid only cursory attention to Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Having said that, I want to make an assertion of my own, which is that the Russians’ intention to swing the election toward Trump is grievous enough on its own.

Clapper is far from alone in his belief that the Russians actually meddled, that they attacked our electoral system. Every national security chieftain on board now or who was aboard during the 2016 election have said the same thing. Even the president’s own team has acknowledged as much; and I include the current secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who was CIA director when he told a congressional committee that he had no doubt the Russians meddled.

Trump’s response has been shameful in its negligence. He continues to spread the blame around to others who “might” have interfered. He fails to acknowledge publicly that Russian strongman/president Vladimir Putin was involved, which is another assertion that the intelligence committee has made.

James Clapper, a retired Air Force general, is an intelligence professional. He brings strong credibility to any argument about the integrity of the 2016 election. I am just unwilling to buy totally into the idea that Russian meddling actually turned the tide in Trump’s favor.

What matters as much — if not more — is that they intended to sow discord and mistrust in our electoral process.

The Russians have succeeded.

If only the president would acknowledge it, too.

Secretary Pompeo gets to work

Mike Pompeo’s nomination to be secretary of state cleared the Senate committee vote he needed by the narrowest of margins. It was a single vote.

Then the full U.S. Senate voted today to confirm him. The vote was 57-42; Republican John McCain was absent and unable to vote.

What does this mean for the new secretary? The way I see it, it means he has little bipartisan backing to tackle the difficult tasks of forging a foreign policy that commands the attention and respect of our nation’s allies and, yes, its foes.

Secretaries of state traditionally get huge margins. The only recent secretary of state to be confirmed by a margin comparable to the one that Pompeo earned was, interestingly, Donald J. Trump’s first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.

The Associated Press reported that every secretary of state dating back to the Carter administration had received at least 85 Senate votes for confirmation.

Why is this important? Foreign policy shouldn’t fall along partisan lines. It shouldn’t reflect the deep divisions within our nation’s partisan political machinery. The United States should speak with a single voice when it deals with foreign policy. That’s long been a tradition. Sadly, that longstanding practice now appears to be buried under the deep and bitter partisan divisions.

It reflects the chasm that separates Republicans and Democrats. It is unhealthy in the extreme, particularly since Secretary Pompeo now must take the lead on preparation for the unprecedented summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, the mercurial leader of North Korea.

Pompeo and Kim already have met. No one has reported precisely how that first meeting — conducted under the cover of secrecy — produced, other than the president saying something about Pompeo and Kim getting “along well.”

The Senate vote will stand, though, as a message that the new secretary of state doesn’t have the bipartisan support he needs to move forward as the prime spokesman for our foreign policy apparatus.

My hope is that he earns it.

Foreign policy no longer a bipartisan effort

It once was thought that “politics stopped at the water’s edge,” meaning that Democrats and Republicans locked arms when facing the rest of the world, setting aside their partisan differences.

A couple of events this week have demonstrated that the late Republican U.S. Sen. Arthur Vandenberg’s words of wisdom no longer apply.

Event No. 1: Mike Pompeo received a partisan vote of confirmation by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee to become the next secretary of state. The full Senate now figures to confirm Pompeo, with only a couple of Democrats crossing over to cast affirmative votes.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who had been thought to be a “no” vote on Pompeo, changed his mind after receiving assurances from Donald Trump about Pompeo’s view regarding the Iraq War, which Paul opposed.

Event No. 2: The president is going to play host this week to a state dinner honoring French President Emmanuel Macron. But here’s the catch: Trump didn’t invite a single Democrat to the White House gala, which is starkly against presidential tradition.

Presidents of both parties traditionally reach across the aisle for these state dinners, which feature sumptuous menus, lots of fine music, toasts and expressions of good wishes.

Not this time, which happens to be the president’s first such state dinner since taking office. What’s more, Macron is head of state of our nation’s oldest international ally. After all, France fought side by side with us while our forebears revolted against Britain’s King George III.

As for the upcoming secretary of state vote, I feel compelled to remind everyone that the office of nation’s top diplomat needs to come in with a semblance of a mandate from the legislative branch of government. It sends the world a message that we remain united in the cause of furthering our nation’s interests.

Former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Kerry, for instance, all received unanimous or near-unanimous votes of confirmation by the Senate.

Politics must end at the our water’s edge. It’s not just a quaint notion. It’s real and it’s vital in the conduct of foreign policy.

Pompeo to become diplomat with thin backing

Mike Pompeo is likely to be confirmed as the nation’s next secretary of state, but he’ll take strange route on his way to leading the nation’s diplomatic corps.

Pompeo is the CIA director whom Donald Trump selected to succeed Rex Tillerson at the State Department. He has run into trouble on his way to confirmation: Pompeo won’t have the blessing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which conducted confirmation hearings on Pompeo’s nomination.

A Republican committee member, Rand Paul of Kentucky, is going to vote against Pompeo’s nomination. That will result more than likely in a vote of no confidence from the panel.

That won’t derail his confirmation. The full Senate will get to vote on it, but Pompeo will gain the support of Senate Democrats who might be in trouble in states that Trump carried in the 2016 presidential election. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe¬† Manchin of West Virginia come to mind; let’s toss in Bill Nelson of Florida while we’re at it. They’re all running for re-election, which seems to give Pompeo a leg up in this strange journey toward confirmation.

Actually, I hope Pompeo does get confirmed. The State Department needs a steady hand and I think Pompeo can provide it … if only the president will allow him to lead the agency.

Tillerson had to fight the occasional battle against being undercut by the president. Tillerson would make a pronouncement and then Trump would countermand him. I don’t want that to happen with the new secretary of state, who’s got a big job awaiting him immediately — which happens to be the preparation for the planned summit between Donald Trump and North Korean despot Kim Jong Un.

What’s more, as head of the CIA, Pompeo has joined other U.S. intelligence officials in confirming the obvious: that the Russians meddled in our 2016 election.

This man needs to be our secretary of state.

‘Great progress’ in advance of summit?

What in the world are we to conclude about this stunning bit of news?

CIA Director Mike Pompeo — who has been nominated to become the next secretary of state — visited North Korea around Easter weekend, where he met with Kim Jong Un.

Pompeo returned from that meeting under the cover of secrecy.

Then we hear today that North Korea has suspended its missile and nuclear tests and has announced plans to close a nuclear test site.

Donald Trump fired off this tweet in response to the announcement from the reclusive North Korean regime:

North Korea has agreed to suspend all Nuclear Tests and close up a major test site. This is very good news for North Korea and the World – big progress! Look forward to our Summit.

The president’s tweet didn’t connect the two events — Pompeo’s secret meeting and the announcement — but Pyongyang’s statement of intent does lend a fresh air of promise to the upcoming meeting between Trump and Kim at a site to be determined.

If the world is able to trust the mercurial Kim Jong Un to keep his word about the suspension of missile tests and the closing of a nuclear test site, then the planned summit could produce a “fruitful” outcome, to which the president alluded while declaring that could walk away from a meeting if it leads down a dead end.

I’m more than willing to link the Pompeo visit with what Kim Jong Un’s government has just announced. If it proves to be a valid link, then we might be on the verge of some historic developments on the Korean Peninsula.

Excellent! Yes?

Nationalists outpointing Globalists in Trump World

Rex Tillerson’s departure as secretary of state fills me with terribly mixed feelings.

On one level, he wasn’t by any stretch my favored pick to lead the nation’s diplomatic effort. He came from big business; he had no real international political experience; he was unable to fill key posts within the State Department.

However, he is a grownup. He clashed with Donald John Trump. He sought to talk the president out of backing away from the Iran nuclear deal; he opposed Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris global warming accord.

Tillerson realizes a fundamental truth about the world and the United States’ role in it, which is that “globalism” is the more realistic approach to cultivating our nation’s alliances. Trump ran for president as a “nationalist.” He wants to “put America first,” but is putting our nation’s world standing in jeopardy.

Trump has nominated CIA Director Mike Pompeo to succeed Tillerson. Pompeo is from the same nationalist mold as Trump, as he demonstrated while he served in the U.S. House of Representatives before making the move to the CIA.

The nationalist wing of the Trump administration is winning the argument within the White House’s walls so far.

Trump keeps harping about America’s interests, which in its way is the height of irony, given his reluctance to condemn the Russians for attacking our nation’s electoral process in 2016.

He has cut loose someone, Tillerson, who believes that the world’s inexorable shrinkage forces this country to think more globally. We cannot escape the influences of other nations and we must be mindful of their concerns.

Should we place other nations’ interests on the same level as our own? No. Neither should we snub them, as Donald Trump seems so terribly inclined to do.

I also must concede that the comment attributed to Tillerson — which he hasn’t denied making — that Trump is a “moron” seems more truthful than ever.

CIA to get a professional spook to lead it

Donald Trump has made an unusual and potentially excellent personnel decision at the Central Intelligence Agency.

The president has nominated Gina Haspel to be the CIA’s new director, replacing Mike Pompeo, who’s moving from that job to become the next secretary of state.

Why is this such an important selection? Some recent CIA heads have come from the political arena. I think of Pompeo (former congressman), Leon Panetta (another former congressman), Porter Goss (still another ex-congressman); others have come from he military, such as Michael Hayden (Air Force general), David Petraeus (Army general) and Stansfield Turner (Navy admiral). They all had varying degrees of success and failure.

Haspel is a career spook. She spent many of her three decades in the CIA as a undercover agent, a spy.

Haspel — the agency’s deputy director — knows the CIA culture. She has lived it.

This nominee isn’t without some problem. She reportedly has been involved in the torture of terror suspects held captive. U.S. Sen. John McCain — a former Vietnam War prisoner who knows a thing or two about torture — has called on Senate committee questioners to probe deeply into Haspel’s involvement in that practice.

That all said, I believe Haspel’s nomination is a potentially huge selection for the CIA.

I like the idea that she has field experience as a deep-cover agent. She knows the business of intelligence-gathering and counter-intelligence. None of this experience has anything to do with her being the first woman ever nominated to lead the CIA.

We’re still in the midst of open warfare against terrorist organizations. We need a well-run CIA to operate at full throttle in this effort.

Moreover, and make no mistake about this issue, we need a CIA director who is willing to speak independently and candidly about issues that well might run counter to the issues put forward by the individual who nominated her.

Pompeo has challenged Donald Trump’s apparent belief that Russia didn’t meddle in our 2016 presidential election. My sincere hope is that Gina Haspel will endorse the view expressed by the entire array of intelligence officials who have reached the same conclusion as Mike Pompeo.

It’s vital that our intelligence community work overtime to seek ways to prevent Russians — or any other foreign adversary with similar capability — from future meddling.

Welcome to center stage, Mike Pompeo

Can there be a more complicated set of circumstances awaiting the next secretary of state?

Donald Trump tweets the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He tweets it, I’m tellin’ ya. Tillerson said he doesn’t know why he was canned. The president then said he’s going to nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be the next top diplomat.

Oh … and this is occurring while the United States is beginning to prepare for a potentially historic summit between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Tillerson today thanks everyone under the sun for the opportunity to serve as secretary of state. Well, almost everyone. He doesn’t thank Trump. Um, I’m betting Trump and Tillerson aren’t going to talk much to each other going forward.

Pffeww!!

I’m worn out — and I’m out here in the Flyover Country peanut gallery.

Pompeo also happens to one of those intelligence experts who believes the Russians meddled in our 2016 presidential election. He has said so on the record. He joins a distinguished list of officials: the director of national intelligence, the head of the National Security Agency, the president’s national security adviser (who well could be the next one out the door). They’ve all said the same thing: The Russians did it and they all contradict the idiocy spouted by the president, that if Vladimir Putin says he didn’t do it, then that’s good enough.

I sincerely hope someone on on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which must vote to confirm Pompeo, asks him directly — once more — whether he still believes the Russians meddled in our election.

And with equal sincerity, I hope the Senate wastes little time in getting Pompeo confirmed. He’s got a full plate waiting for him when he takes over.

I mean — crap! — he’s got to prepare the president for this summit with Kim Jong Un. I’ll also have to hope Donald Trump will listen to what the new guy has to say.

Clock is ticking on Rex T at State

I guess the die was cast when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the president of the United States a “f****** moron” and then pointedly refused to deny he said it.

The word is out that the White House is working on an ouster strategy that would send Tillerson packing and would install CIA Director Mike Pompeo as the next top diplomat.

Change is on its way … allegedly

It’s probably good that Tillerson will be replaced. He hasn’t been a particularly effective secretary of state. I mean, the guy seeks to open direct talks with North Korean leaders in connection with their foolish plans to develop a nuclear arsenal and then is told — via Twitter — that the president believes he is “wasting his time.”

The head of the State Department cannot function when he is being undermined so publicly by the president who appointed him to this highly important and sensitive job.

The word, too, has been Trump and Tillerson are not close. They never had met before Trump asked Tillerson to become secretary of state. That’s no surprise, though, given that Trump had virtually zero contact with anyone outside his own circle of business associates.

Would a Secretary Pompeo — a former congressman from Kansas — fare better than Secretary Tillerson? Well, the way I see it, the bar has been set so low with the Trump-Tillerson non-relationship that it cannot possibly be much worse.

Are we clear now? POTUS backs intel agencies

That’s as clear as mud, isn’t it?

Donald John Trump says in one breath that Vladimir Putin is sincere when he says Russia didn’t meddle in our nation’s 2016 presidential election.

In virtually the next breath — actually it was the next day — the president says he backs the U.S. intelligence agencies’ assessment that, yep, the Russians meddled, they interfered, they sought to influence the election outcome.

The question now is this: Which is it, Mr. President? Who do you believe?

This kind of stumble-bum rhetoric is driving many of us utterly bananas.

POTUS back tracks

Trump had been “on script” for most of his 12-day trip to Asia. Then he shook hands with the Russian president; the men met privately for a brief period in Da Nang, Vietnam. Putin told Trump he has been “offended” by assertions that Russia meddled in our election. Trump seemed to side with the bad guy while dismissing the assessments of the good guys, the men and women who work for our intelligence agencies.

For the life of me, I don’t understand — let alone accept — Trump’s belief that Putin can be trusted as far as he can throw him. The man is a former KGB hot shot. He is trained to lie.

Forgive me for quoting former Fox TV commentator Bill O’Reilly, but O’Reilly did assert correctly during an interview with Trump that “Putin is a killer”; Trump responded by saying, essentially, “So are we.”

Good … grief. Dude! Get an ever-lovin’ grip!

Oh, but now he backs U.S. intelligence analysts, who’ve been saying all along that Russian hackers meddled in our election — and they did so on orders from Vladimir Putin. One of them who stands by our analysis of Russian meddling happens to be CIA Director Mike Pompeo, whom Trump appointed.

My head is spinning.