Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has emerged as an official staunchly loyal to President Trump. Pompeo has worked to stonewall House Democrats in their impeachment investigation and refused to testify in the inquiry, but that may not be enough to keep him out of trouble with the president. Reports from current and recent administration officials indicate that Mr. Trump is not happy that many of Pompeo’s subordinates are speaking to Congress despite the Secretary’s instructions not to do so.
NBC News reports that “four current and former senior administration officials” have said that the president blames Secretary of State Pompeo for his appointments of several State Department officials who have recently testified about the Trump Administration’s mishandling of the foreign aid package to Ukraine. In particular, Mr. Trump is reportedly upset about the appointment of Bill Taylor, the Chargé d’Affaires Ad Interim For U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine whose testimony to House investigators established a quid pro quo in which the Trump Administration demanded favors from Ukraine to release the congressionally appropriated aid. Taylor was appointed temporary head of the Ukraine embassy last June after Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was recalled.
A senior official said that the opinion inside the White House “just felt like [Pompeo should] ‘rein your people in.’”
The impeachment inquiry has put Pompeo in a difficult position as the head of a federal department that now questions his leadership and as an advisor to a president who demands unflinching loyalty. With State Department officials alleging wrongdoing that Pompeo must have been aware of, the secretary is walking a tightrope.
“He feels like he's getting a bunch of blame from the president and the White House for having hired all these people who are turning against Trump,” an unnamed official said of Pompeo, “and that it's the State Department that is going to bring him down, so it's all Pompeo's fault.”
Back in October, Trump told reporters that Pompeo had made a mistake hiring Taylor, who he called a “Never Trumper.” Two days later, Pompeo was conspicuously absent from the national security team that was present when a US military force launched a raid that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Pompeo was home in Kansas for a friend’s wedding.
Pompeo reportedly defended himself to the president by saying that the State Department is a large agency where he cannot be expected to know and control every employee. Nevertheless, sources say that “Pompeo feels under siege” and continues to be “iced out.” He is still present for meetings, but Trump listens to him less.
From the other side, Pompeo has lost credibility with State Department employees for not standing up to the unethical behavior of President Trump and his shadow diplomatic team. National Security Advisor Michael Bolton reportedly pushed back on the quid pro quo scheme, but there have been no reports that Pompeo tried to advise the president against the plan. He also stood by while Rudy Giuliani and his cohorts allegedly conducted a disinformation and character assassination campaign against Marie Yovanovitch. Ambassador Mike McKinley resigned over Pompeo’s refusal to defend Yovanovitch.
At its core, the friction between Trump and Pompeo is based on the fact that good people were appointed to positions in the State Department. These good people objected to the unethical conduct of the president, Rudy Giuliani, and others such as Gordon Sondland. If there had been no wrongdoing in Trump’s diplomacy, there would have been no reason for officials in the State Department to blow the whistle, but now Pompeo gets the blame for State Department employees showing disloyalty by blowing the whistle on the president’s scheme.
Originally published on The Resurgent