Donald Trump doesn’t understand the nomination process, especially at the State Department, and he doesn’t care about ethical violations committed by his White House. On March 28, 2018 Need to Impeach asked how Donald Trump would negotiate with North Korea without a Secretary of State, and three days later, Trump sent his nominee for the position to talk with Kim Jong Un, even though he has not been confirmed by the Senate. Pompeo’s trip to North Korea is problematic for the United States in several ways, not the least of which is how it looks—to both us and them.
Mike Pompeo is currently serving as the director of the CIA, a role in which his job is to administer in the interest of national security. In the CIA’s own outlined responsibilities of the CIA director, there is nothing listed about interfacing with world leaders. Pompeo met with North Korea’s leader under “duties related to intelligence affecting the national security as the President or the Director of National Intelligence may direct,” but that excuse does nothing to mitigate the poor optics.
North Korea is a hostile, despotic foreign government that underwent an actionable negotiation with the nominee for the U.S.’s top diplomat. This in turn trivializes his status as a nominee — at least to them. Pompeo’s nomination is not a foregone conclusion, and if he is not confirmed it could signify weakness from the U.S. If Pompeo’s confirmation is drawn-out and becomes contentious, then his contact with Kim Jong Un indicates to North Korea that the system of checks and balances that marks our representative democracy is worthless. It seems unlikely that former or future presidents would use their sitting CIA directors as diplomats, and if Pompeo did not travel to North Korea in his capacity as CIA director, he was there illegally.
Pompeo, in his role as CIA Director, is expected to manage “relationships with foreign intelligence services,” but nothing about that suggests he has diplomatic responsibilities outside of the intelligence community. While Pompeo has a background in business and government, the bulk of his experience is pertinent to intelligence work and not diplomacy, let alone with hostile foreign autocrats.
Lastly, Trump sent Pompeo to liaise on behalf of the U.S. with almost no transparency. His meeting in North Korea occurred more than 10 days prior to his confirmation hearing, but it was revealed by President Trump nearly a week after said hearing. It is not always possible to announce the activities of a CIA director, or top diplomats, but the timing of Trump’s announcement suggests the delay had less to do with sensitive information than it did with Pompeo’s confirmation as Secretary of State.
If Pompeo’s Kim Jong Un meeting is at all indicative of how he will run the State Department, it should not inspire confidence. Disregard for the legitimacy of our democratic institutions is unacceptable for a Secretary of State that should be acting as an ambassador for American interests and values. Pompeo’s deference to President Trump can only create more problems if and when he legitimately serves as the nation’s top diplomat.
From alienating our allies to cozying up to dictators to saving Chinese jobs in exchange for investment in the Trump Organization, Donald Trump is looking out only for Trump in his foreign policy.