The current Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has led the State Department since taking over for Rex Tillerson, who was fired in March 2018. Since taking up the post, Pompeo has generally been considered someone who is loyal to President Trump and supportive of his policy decisions.
By contrast, Tillerson reportedly fell out of favor with Trump after disagreements over the direction of United States foreign policy, including the Iran Nuclear Deal, which the Trump administration eventually withdrew from just weeks after Pompeo took over.
Amid his reputation as a Trump loyalist, Pompeo has been on the receiving end of considerable controversy over the direction of State Department policy, including the US’ willingness to engage in talks with North Korea, its hardline policies toward Iran and Pompeo’s own questionable relationship with Mohammed bin Salman, the current Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.
Pompeo has also been involved in one of the latest White House controversies, which surrounds apparent revelations about the inner workings of the Trump administration’s foreign policy team by former national security adviser John Bolton.
In recent days, Bolton has severely criticized President Trump and his decision making abilities, characterizing the president as “unfit for office” and “a danger for the republic.” On Twitter, Pompeo responded to the claims by suggesting that Bolton was a traitor.
The State Department released a press statement on its official website stating that Pompeo hasn’t read the book but can glean from excerpts that he is “spreading a number of lies, fully-spun half-truths, and outright falsehoods.”
Notably, Pompeo has seen a meteoric rise in government, with his first public office being a seat in the US House of Representatives from Kansas in 2011. After holding that post until 2017, Pompeo was tapped for the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), a position he held until taking over as Secretary of State in 2018.
Pompeo was born in Orange County, California in 1963. Shortly after graduating from high school, he enrolled at the West Point military academy, where he majored in mechanical engineering.
After graduating, Pompeo later served in the US military where he was stationed in East Germany and climbed to the rank of captain. After leaving the military, he attended Harvard University, became an editor for the Harvard Law Review and received his J.D. in 1994.
After a stint at a law firm in Washington, DC, Pompeo moved to Kansas and co-founded a business called Thayer Aerospace, an aircraft parts and equipment manufacturer. He later became the president of Sentry International, a company that sells oil drilling equipment.
Rise in government
Pompeo was elected to the US House of Representatives in the 2010 congressional elections, taking office in 2011.
During his tenure as a congressman, Pompeo dealt with the major foreign policy issues of the time, including mass surveillance, the Guantanamo Bay prison and the 2012 terrorist incident at the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Following the Benghazi attacks, which killed four Americans, Pompeo was named to the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which was tasked with investigating the incident. The investigation subsequently led to a firestorm of accusations and inquiry into the conduct of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In 2015, Pompeo characterized the incident and its aftermath as “worse in some ways” than Watergate, alleging wrongdoing on the part of Secretary Clinton regarding her emails on the subject, which later became one of Donald Trump’s main critiques of Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.
After Trump assumed office in January 2017, Pompeo was appointed as the Director of the CIA.
Some critics claim that during this time Pompeo politicized the post. As far as policy, he expanded the CIA’s role in carrying out drone strikes in active war zones and pushed back against WikiLeaks, an organization that publishes classified documents.
Secretary of State
On April 26, Pompeo was confirmed by the Senate as the next Secretary of State, in a vote that fell largely along partisan lines.
In addition to being a central figure in the reversal of US policy on the Iran Nuclear Deal, Pompeo also attended the June 2018 summit with North Korea, the first ever official diplomatic meeting between the two countries.
Just before taking over at the State Department, Pompeo defended the president’s decision to meet with North Korea, saying that he “isn’t doing this for theatre, he is going there to solve a problem.”
During the meeting with North Korea, Pompeo allegedly passed a note to then-national security adviser John Bolton that said “he is so full of s—” after Trump agreed with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that past US administrations engaged in “hostile policies” toward the country. The message was apparently ambiguous enough that there have been questions as to whether Pompeo was referring to Trump or Kim.
Behind the scenes at the White House, Pompeo reportedly received internal criticism for hiring officials at the State Department who were later willing to testify against Trump during the 2019 presidential impeachment hearings, including the former ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor.
Pompeo also received public criticism from officials who were concerned with the US decision to kill Iranian General Qasem Soleimani on Iraqi soil, which some observers claim could have escalated into war.
Pompeo married his current wife, Susan, in 2000. They have one son, Nicholas, who works for Google.
On his Twitter, Mike Pompeo says that his Christian faith is one of the main aspects of his identity, writing in his biography section that he is a “Christian, husband, father & proud American.”
Pompeo also calls himself a “Christian leader,” which he’s said impacts three areas of his job: disposition, dialogue and decisions.
“How is it that one carries oneself in the world? … How is it that we engage with others around the world? … What do we use as our bedrock to get to those decisions? These are things that you face in your work every day [as a Christian leader],” Pompeo said during a speech in 2019.
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