‘Congressman from Koch’ Mike Pompeo tapped to replace Tillerson at State Department
Who is Mike Pompeo, President Donald Trump’s pick to be the next secretary of state?
When the New York Times profiled Pompeo’s first few months of the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a spokesman for the agency said the only political bias shown by the director was “toward action and winning.”
Such brash talk has been Pompeo’s hallmark since he arrived in Washington in 2010, having ridden the Tea Party wave into Congress. Pompeo had the backing of the billionaire Koch brothers.
Koch Industries was his top campaign contributor by a long distance, according to data compiled by OpenSecrets.
“He would dispute being called the congressman from Koch, but it did describe him,” said Burdett Loomis, a political science professor at the University of Kansas.
Pompeo, 53, represented the congressional district that includes Wichita, where Koch Industries is based.
“It is hard not to be the congressman from Koch if you’re from Wichita,” given the multiple interests that the Kochs represent in the city of less than 400,000, Loomis noted.
First in his class at West Point, Pompeo served as an Army tank officer in the Gulf War. He went to Harvard Law School, and started a career in the aerospace industry centered around Wichita, where he first came into the Koch orbit.
While in the House, Pompeo became a fierce critic of President Obama and Hillary Clinton. He helped lead the effort to upend the Iran nuclear agreement and became a fierce critic of Clinton’s handling of the terrorist attack on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.
“I thought he was a little too smart for that — [but] he was happy spouting the party line,” Loomis said.
“This satisfied his constituents and played well within the Republican Party in Congress that was certainly happy making those kinds of attacks,” Loomis said.
Without a deep bench in foreign-policy advisers, Trump turned to Congress to fill roles in his administration, and Pompeo’s prominent role as an Obama critic made him a natural to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The two have reportedly grown close as Pompeo has come to the Oval Office daily to provide the president daily intelligence briefings.
Trump praised Pompeo on Tuesday, saying he was “always on the same wavelength.”
“I have worked with Mike Pompeo for quite some time, tremendous energy, tremendous intellect,” Trump said.
“We are always on the same wavelength. The relationship has always been good, and that is what I need as secretary of state,” the president added.
Read: Tillerson out as secretary of state as Trump taps CIA chief Pompeo
Loomis called Pompeo “the textbook case on how to move up within the Trump orbit,” he added.
“I don’t think there is any indication that he has challenged Trump much,” Loomis said.
Nathaniel Birkhead, an assistant professor at Kansas State University, said Pompeo is from the “nationalist” wing of the Republican Party. For instance, he would likely oppose any climate-change-related initiative.
With the departure of Gary Cohn from the White House, Trump is “doubling down on a more nationalist approach” to international relations, Birkhead said.
“I see what Trump gets” from selecting Pompeo, but the reverse is not clear, Loomis said.
“I hope he will be able to provide independent advice. Clearly he has this ingrained loyalty that has served him well,” he added.