Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoHouse postpones testimony from key Pompeo aide about IG firing The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Democratic proposal to extend 0 unemployment checks Pompeo pushes back on Russian bounty reports MORE’s relationship with President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse panel approves 0.5B defense policy bill House panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate House panel votes to constrain Afghan drawdown, ask for assessment on ‘incentives’ to attack US troops MORE is in the spotlight following passages from John BoltonJohn BoltonBolton says he would have personally briefed Trump on Russian bounties Coronavirus Report: The Hill’s Steve Clemons interviews Mark Penn Judge temporarily blocks publication of Mary Trump book MORE’s new book.
The former national security adviser paints Pompeo as someone who instinctively pushed back against some of the president’s policies and privately criticized Trump.
For now, Pompeo appears to have emerged largely unscathed, with the White House dismissing Bolton’s memoir as nothing more than a collection of lies meant to boost sales of the book, titled “The Room Where It Happened.”
Shortly after excerpts of the book were published, Trump said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that he has a “very good relationship with Pompeo.”
One of the more sensational excerpts in the book recounts an episode in which Pompeo supposedly showed Bolton a notepad where he had written “he is so full of shit,” referring to Trump.
The president said Wednesday that he doubts the secretary wrote those words.
“Does he have the note? Let me see the note,” Trump said in the interview.
Pompeo later gave his own rebuttal to Bolton’s book, issuing a statement titled “I Was In The Room Too.” He said Bolton is “spreading a number of lies, fully-spun half-truths, and outright falsehoods.”
When asked if Bolton’s book has impacted Pompeo’s standing with the president, a senior White House official said: “Pompeo’s response to Bolton’s claim was clear and unambiguous. Additionally there is genuine belief within the White House that Bolton should get a Ph.D. for creative writing. These two factors allow Pompeo to enjoy the continued confidence and support of the president.”
Bolton describes Pompeo’s management style as “conflict avoidance,” and the scenarios in the book paint a picture of a secretary delicately navigating the whims of the president, foreign policy and what he thinks is right.
Pompeo was against Trump meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnIs Kim Yo Jong North Korea’s bridge to the future? How the US could respond to Russia’s support of the Taliban South Korean president calls for Trump-Kim summit before November election MORE at the Demilitarized Zone in June last year, with Bolton relaying the episode as Pompeo wanting to be excluded.
“I have no value added on this. This is complete chaos,” Bolton quoted Pompeo as saying.
But the secretary later went along with Trump’s wishes.
“The next thing I knew, Trump had signed the ‘formal’ letter of invitation that the North Koreans had asked for. Pompeo had succumbed yet again,” Bolton wrote.
Bolton also wrote that Pompeo had considered resigning in December 2018, following a string of events: Trump agreeing with Chinese President Xi Jinping on his building of concentration camps for Uighur Muslims, fears that the president would roll back restrictions on Chinese telecommunication firms and concerns over Trump’s legal issues.
“Somewhere nearby was resignation territory, I said, which Pompeo agreed with. This didn’t yet require drafting a resignation letter, but warning lights were flashing,” Bolton wrote.
Pompeo has long received praise from the president. The former House member first served as Trump’s CIA director before becoming Trump’s second secretary of State, after gaining notoriety as a GOP congressman for his relentless interrogation of then-Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRepublican Nicole Malliotakis wins New York primary to challenge Max Rose Trump’s evangelical approval dips, but remains high How Obama can win back millions of Trump voters for Biden MORE during the Benghazi investigation led by House Republicans.
That exchange apparently stuck with the president, described in one episode of Bolton’s book as Trump pushing for Pompeo to find a way for the U.S. to leave Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Call Pompeo and tell him to remember Benghazi,” Bolton quoted the president’s instructions.
Pompeo also played a key role in actions surrounding the impeachment process led by House Democrats last year, when the secretary came under fire for being among the department heads who sought to block testimony of top State Department officials in the probe into Trump’s contacts with Ukraine. He also faced criticism that he failed to protect diplomats and other career officials under his leadership.
In one chapter of the book, Bolton describes Pompeo’s role responding to the president wanting to fire U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchCheney clashes with Trump Voters must strongly reject the president’s abuses by voting him out this November Bolton book puts spotlight on Pompeo-Trump relationship MORE last year.
The account tracks with testimony from the House impeachment inquiry, that the secretary sought to prevent and then delay the ambassador’s ousting. Bolton wrote that Pompeo dismissed out of hand accusations raised by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiSunday shows preview: With coronavirus cases surging, lawmakers and health officials weigh in Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down GOP lawmakers join social media app billed as alternative to Big Tech MORE.
Bolton wrote that Pompeo told him Yovanovitch “was trying to reduce corruption in Ukraine and may well have been going after some of Giuliani’s clients.”
Nevertheless, Pompeo hastened Yovanovitch’s exit to late November or early December, almost six months ahead of her expected departure.
“Pompeo wanted to leave it at that,” Bolton wrote, but Trump’s intense focus on Yovanovitch led him to recall her on April 23. “Pompeo closed by saying that he would order her back to Washington that night.”
The book and its characterization of Pompeo come at a time when he is already under scrutiny for recommending Trump fire State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, who was investigating the secretary’s authorization of a multibillion-dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia as well as whether he misused a political appointee to perform personal tasks for himself and his wife, such as picking up dry cleaning and walking their dog.
Pompeo has pushed back on allegations he ousted Linick to interfere with such investigations.
House Democrats are investigating the circumstances surrounding Linick’s ousting, and are expected to question next week one of the secretary’s closest aides, Under Secretary for Management Brian Bulatao, who had knowledge of the ongoing investigations.
The testimony and subsequent investigation are likely to pose another test for Pompeo and his place within the administration, but the White House reaction to Bolton’s book suggest his ties to Trump remain as strong as they were before.
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