Just as the strange ouster of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State begins to fade in the public consciousness, former CIA Director Mike Pompeo gears up to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the first of several hearings to confirm him as Tillerson’s replacement.
Pompeo, almost universally understood to lean decidedly hawkish, would enter the State Department as its top ambassador at a time of growing tension between the U.S. and several historically hostile-to-Democracy nations such as North Korea, Russia, Syria, and Iran.
President Donald Trump has already wished his nominee well in Thursday morning’s proceedings (which kick off at 10 am).
Good luck to Mike Pompeo during his Confirmation Hearing today. He will be a great Secretary of State!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2018
While some foresee an “uphill” climb for the former Republican congressman — citing his past support of enhanced interrogation techniques and what some view as an unwillingness to challenge the president on his foreign policy positions — others consider Pompeo a solid choice.
Several Democrats have expressed concern that Pompeo, who is known as a hawk, will back military intervention over diplomacy.
But Pompeo will promise to use “unrelenting diplomacy” to avoid sending Americans into battle, according to excerpts of his prepared remarks. “War is always the last resort,” he will say.
“Mike Pompeo is a proven defender of U.S. national security interests, and I have full confidence in his ability to lead the State Department as well as he has led the CIA,” Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), a committee member, said ahead of Thursday’s hearing.
The White House released prepared remarks ahead of Thursday’s hearing. They are reprinted in full below. An embedded live stream video is also available at the bottom of the page to view the hearing live.
Excerpts from CIA Director Pompeo’s Prepared Remarks
Thursday morning, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Mike Pompeo will testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations as they begin deliberations on his nomination to be the next U.S. Secretary of State. Please see below excerpts from his opening statement, as prepared for delivery.
On Working Closely with U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations:
“Should I be confirmed, the regular contact we’ve established throughout this process will continue. I’ll do my best to pick up your calls on the first ring, and I’ll be a regular visitor to the Capitol. Your counsel and support will, if I’m confirmed, be critical to my leadership of the Department of State.”
On Serving Alongside the Men & Women of the CIA:
“To the men and women of the CIA: To say that it has been an honor, a privilege, and a joy doesn’t do justice to the gratitude I feel to have served as your leader. I’ve demanded much over the last 15 months, setting expectations high. I’ve pushed responsibility and authority through the organization to every officer and, along with that, the required accountability. And you, the warriors of the CIA, have delivered—for America, for President Trump, and for me.”
On Setting the Mission & Empowering the Diplomatic Corps:
“Throughout my time in Congress and at the CIA, I’ve met hundreds of State Department leaders and officers, and I’ve met even more over the past month. In a recent series of Department briefings with team members at State, they all, to a person, expressed a hope to be empowered in their roles, and to have a clear understanding of the President’s mission. That will be my first priority. They also shared how demoralizing it is to have so many vacancies and, frankly, not to feel relevant. I’ll do my part to end the vacancies, but I’ll need your help. And I will work every day to provide dedicated leadership and convey my faith in their work—just as I have done with my workforce at the CIA.”
On Strengthening the Workforce Culture and Communication at the State Department:
“The State Department’s workforce must, by necessity, be diverse in every sense of the word—in terms of race, religion, background, and more. I’ll work to achieve that diversity, just as I have successfully done at CIA, by focusing on mission and demanding that every team member be treated equally and with dignity and respect.
But there is one more ingredient critical to our success—and that is listening to and working alongside each of you and your staffs. I have used, at CIA, the model former Director Panetta suggested to me: fewer hearings, more cups of coffee; shorter conversations, more frequently. I found it most useful with your colleagues on SSCI and hope that you, too, will find it valuable.
All of this—listening, leveraging differences, unleashing talent, teamwork—will become the fabric of a State Department culture that finds its swagger once again. We will be effective, expeditionary, diverse, and successful in fulfilling our mission.”
On Pompeo’s Sense of America’s Duty to Lead:
“Make no mistake: America is uniquely blessed, and with those blessings comes a duty to lead. As I have argued throughout my time in public service, if we do not lead the calls for democracy, prosperity, and human rights around the world, who will? No other nation is equipped with the same blend of power and principle.”
On Being Labeled a “Hawk”:
“I know firsthand the painful sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. So when journalists, most of whom have never met me, label me—or any of you—as “hawks,” “war hardliners,” or worse, I shake my head. There are few who dread war more than those of us who have served in uniform. And there is a great deal of room between a military presence and war. War is always the last resort. I would prefer achieving the President’s foreign policy goals with unrelenting diplomacy rather than by sending young men and women to war.
On Diplomatic Efforts for Ridding the World of a Nuclear North Korea:
“First, diplomatic efforts are underway to rid the world of a nuclear North Korea. There is no higher diplomatic task for the State Department team than solving this decades-in-the-making threat to our nation. The stakes are high for everyone, but I believe them to be the highest for the North Korean regime. The State Department has successfully rallied the world to cut ties and impose sanctions that have had a profound impact. But there is much diplomatic work left to do, including supporting the President’s intent to meet with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. That meeting will take place against a backdrop of commitment by our President to achieve denuclearization and prevent America from being held at risk by a North Korean arsenal of nuclear weapons. I have read the CIA histories of previous negotiations with the North Koreans, and am confident that we will not repeat the mistakes of the past. President Trump isn’t one to play games at the negotiating table—and I won’t be either.
On Iran’s Dangerous Behavior & Fixing the Egregious Flaws in the JCPOA:
“Iran, meanwhile, has been on the march and has paid too low a price for its dangerous behavior. Our administration has developed a strategy to counter Iran that will raise that cost. The issues surrounding Iran’s proliferation threat are real and we, along with our allies, must deal with the long-term risk that its capability presents. But we cannot let the nuclear file prevent us from acting against Iran’s cyber efforts or its attempts to provide missiles to the Houthis to attack Saudi Arabia and Americans who travel there. Iran’s activities in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon threaten the very existence of Israel, and the global reach of Hezbollah threatens us right here in the homeland. Iran freed American hostages for the sake of a deal and then turned immediately to holding still more. I will work for their freedom every day.
President Trump is prepared to work with our partners to revise the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to fix its most egregious flaws. If confirmed, it will be an immediate personal priority to work with those partners to see if such a fix is achievable. The stakes are high for everyone, but especially Tehran. If confirmed in time, I look forward to engaging key Allies on this crucial and time-sensitive topic at the G7 Ministerial Meeting on April 22nd and the NATO Ministerial Meeting later that week.”
On Russia’s Aggressive Actions & Future Diplomatic Efforts:
“Next, Russia continues to act aggressively, enabled by years of soft policy toward that aggression. That’s now over. The list of this administration’s actions to raise the cost for Vladimir Putin is long. We are rebuilding our already strong military and recapitalizing our nuclear deterrent. We have imposed tough sanctions and expelled more Russian diplomats and intelligence officers from the U.S. than at any time since the Cold War. We are arming brave young men and women resisting Russian expansionism in Ukraine and Georgia. This list is much longer, and I’m confident I’ll have the opportunity to add to it today. But the actions of this administration make clear that President Trump’s national security strategy, rightfully, has identified Russia as a danger to our country. Our diplomatic efforts with Russia will prove challenging, but as in previous confrontations with Moscow, must continue.”
On Working Diplomatically with China toward a More Productive Bilateral Partnership:
“Even while America has reestablished a position of strength in our diplomatic relationship, China continues its concerted and coordinated effort to compete with the United States in diplomatic, military, and economic terms. For years, through IP theft and coercive technology transfer, China has exploited weak U.S. trade policy and leeched wealth and secrets from our economy. Militarily, it continues its provocation in the South and East China Seas, in cyberspace, and even in outer space. This administration is determined to work diplomatically with the Chinese government in an effort to develop a more productive bilateral partnership. We have been pleased with China’s support of our efforts to apply pressure on the North Korean regime, but it must do more. The State Department must be at the center of formulating and executing our China policy.”