At his confirmation hearing to become President Trump’s next Secretary of State, CIA Director Mike Pompeo offered little reassurance that he has tempered his hawkish inclinations on Iran or distanced himself from past bigoted remarks. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is planning to vote on Pompeo as soon as next week, and there is a likelihood he may not gain the votes necessary to earn the committee’s support – no one in modern history has become Secretary of State without winning that endorsement. Below are five key moments from the hearing that demonstrate why Pompeo is unfit to be Secretary of State:
Pompeo Offered No Reassurances on Protecting the Iran Deal from Trump and Bolton
Director Pompeo demurred when Senator Jeff Merkley asked if he was going to be part of a “war cabinet” with John Bolton. But his comments on Iran left little question that Pompeo would work to spike the Iran deal and put the U.S. on a potential war path with Iran. Pompeo vowed that he would follow Trump’s directive to try to “fix” perceived deficiencies in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). However, when pressed by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) on whether he would recommend staying in the JCPOA if he couldn’t fix it by May 12, Pompeo refused to answer because he said it was a hypothetical – even though it is one that he could face in his first weeks on the job. When pressed further, Pompeo made clear that he would not caution against Trump snapping back sanctions and that he would instead work for a “better agreement” after Trump walks away from the deal.
Pompeo Downplayed Risks of Scrapping the Deal
In response to Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) questioning on why the U.S. would unshackle Iran’s nuclear program after Iran had already received a great deal of relief up front, Pompeo stated “there is continued interest on the part of Iran to stay in this deal. It’s in their own economic self-interest to do so. And I guess I’d add, Iran wasn’t racing to a weapon before the deal. There is no indication that I’m aware of that if the deal no longer existed that they would immediately turn to racing to create a nuclear weapon today.”
This contradicts a great deal of Pompeo’s earlier histrionics, including his statement in 2015 that “This regime is intent on building a nuclear weapon.” More importantly, however, is the flippant dismissal of risks associated with the President’s dangerous course. If the U.S. scraps the accord, there is every indication to believe that Iran will resume the nuclear activities that so concerned Pompeo and others prior to the JCPOA. This lack of foresight is either disingenuous or negligent.
Taken to Task on Bombing Iran, Regime Change Advocacy
Sen. Kaine pressed Pompeo on his remarks in 2014 that “It’s under 2,000 sorties to destroy the Iranian nuclear capacity. This is not an insurmountable task for the coalition forces.” Kaine remarked:
“those comments when I heard them, about the relative ease of a war against Iran, reminded me of the run to the Iraq War…Of course we know that the cost to the United States was 4,400 soldiers dead, 500,000 Iraqis dead. A price tag now topping $3 trillion and unprecedented turmoil in the region and most of those facts were known at the time that you made that statement in 2014.”
When asked by Sen. Kaine about his remarks in 2016 that “Congress must act to change Iranian behavior, and ultimately the Iranian regime,” Pompeo backpedaled, asserting that the remarks did not imply advocating the use of force, but instead were about “democracy promotion.” However, Pompeo’s response is cold comfort for those familiar with his calls to bomb Iran, and who are similarly hesitant about regime change that might be undertaken by covert manipulation as occurred in Iran in 1953.
Believes Trump Has Authority to Launch New Wars
In response to questioning from Sen. Murphy on what authority the President has to strike Syrian forces, Pompeo indicated “the President has that authority. He certainly has it under Article II of the Constitution.”
Pompeo offered little indication as to where Presidential authority ended and Congressional authority to declare war began. Does Pompeo – who sought to tie Iran to al-Qaeda as CIA Director and proposed bombing sorties on Iran as an alternative to negotiations – believe that the administration has the authority to launch strikes against Iran on Iranian territory without consulting Congress? Rather than risk confirming an individual who appears to believe all war powers reside with the Executive, Congress should reject Pompeo’s nomination.
Refused to Apologize for His Past Hateful Rhetoric
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) did a masterful job questioning Pompeo’s past rhetoric calling Muslim leaders “potentially complicit” in terrorist attacks for their supposed “silence” in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing with his own close ties to Islamophobic political figures.
Pompeo could have retracted his prior hateful remarks or expressed regret for working with Frank Gaffney, Brigitte Gabriel and other Islamophobes. But he failed to do so even when his hypocrisy was exposed. This is concerning for a number of reasons, including the fact that he would be serving a President with a clear bias against Muslims, and that he would be overseeing policies – including the Muslim ban which is in effect today – that are actively discriminating against Muslims.