Trump ousts Tiller­son

Texan ‘proud of the op­por­tu­nity ... to serve my coun­try’ A hawk who pleased Trump, Pom­peo moves to diplo­macy

The Dallas Morning News - - Front Page - FROM WIRE RE­PORTS

WASH­ING­TON — In 13 months as CIA di­rec­tor, Mike Pom­peo some­times dis­played the ag­gres­sive par­ti­san­ship he had de­vel­oped as a Repub­li­can com­bat­ant in Congress, dis­turb­ing some col­leagues with hawk­ish pol­icy pro­nounce­ments and po­lit­i­cal spin that were jar­ring in his role as in­tel­li­gence ad­viser.

But the agency ap­pre­ci­ated his clout at the White House. His tough talk and stel­lar re­sume as a grad­u­ate of West Point and Har­vard Law School pleased Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who formed a close bond and easy rap­port with Pom­peo in daily in­tel­li­gence brief­ings.

Now, if con­firmed to re­place Rex Tiller­son as sec­re­tary of state, the 54-year-old former Kansas con­gress­man will be­come the first per­son to have served as both the na­tion’s top spy and top diplo­mat. In the new job, Pom­peo will no longer be con­strained by the stric­tures of im­par­tial

in­tel­li­gence anal­y­sis, a devel­op­ment likely to thrill his con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal al­lies and alarm his crit­ics.

“Mike al­lowed his pub­lic speeches to be more in­fused with pol­icy than is tra­di­tional for a CIA di­rec­tor,” said Michael Hay­den, who served as CIA di­rec­tor from 2006 to 2009. “But the agency was very pleased that he was so close to the pres­i­dent. And I’ve heard no one say that he’s made the agency skew its anal­y­sis to make the White House happy.”

Hay­den said Pom­peo “has shown that he sounds and thinks more like the pres­i­dent than Tiller­son ever did. That should make the re­la­tion­ship bet­ter.” Tiller­son “acted as a coun­ter­bal­ance to the pres­i­dent’s spon­ta­neous re­ac­tion to things,” Hay­den said, a role that he sug­gested Pom­peo will be less likely to play.

Out­spo­ken on Iran

Amy Ze­gart, a Stan­ford scholar who stud­ies the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, said Pom­peo, who has largely filled ma­jor jobs with CIA vet­er­ans rather than out­siders, has pro­tected the agency in a tu­mul­tuous time, a sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ment given that Trump came into of­fice blast­ing the agency’s com­pe­tence and re­li­a­bil­ity.

“Pres­i­dent Trump came into of­fice know­ing noth­ing and trust­ing noth­ing about the CIA,” she said. “Pom­peo has gained the pres­i­dent’s trust and for the most part kept the Trump cir­cus out of Lan­g­ley. That’s a big deal.”

Pom­peo, who was elected to Congress in 2010 in the tea party wave, has been es­pe­cially out­spo­ken on Iran. He shares Trump’s view that the nu­clear agree­ment with Tehran is deeply flawed. Shortly af­ter Trump was elected, Pom­peo wrote on Twit­ter, “I look for­ward to rolling back this dis­as­trous deal with the world’s largest state spon­sor of ter­ror­ism.”

He has not mod­er­ated his rhetoric at the CIA. Five months ago he called Iran a “despotic theoc­racy” and “a per­ni­cious em­pire that is ex­pand­ing its power and in­flu­ence across the Mid­dle East.”

In Oc­to­ber, he slipped up in dis­cussing the volatile is­sue of Rus­sia’s in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion, claim­ing that U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies had con­cluded that the med­dling did not af­fect the out­come. In fact, the agen­cies did not give an opinion on the im­pact of the Rus­sian hack­ing, leak­ing and pro­pa­ganda. The agency is­sued a cor­rec­tive state­ment, and Pom­peo has not re­peated the mis­take.

Ag­gres­sive ap­proach

On covert ac­tion, although the de­tails of most op­er­a­tions re­main se­cret, Pom­peo has taken an ag­gres­sive ap­proach. In Afghanistan, the agency has sent small teams of highly ex­pe­ri­enced of­fi­cers and con­trac­tors along­side Afghan troops to hunt and kill Tal­iban mil­i­tants across the coun­try. This marks a shift for the CIA in Afghanistan, where the agency had pri­mar­ily fo­cused on al-qaeda and help­ing the Afghan spy ser­vices.

“We can’t per­form our mis­sion if we’re not ag­gres­sive,” Pom­peo said in a speech in Texas last fall. “This is un­for­giv­ing, re­lent­less. You pick the word. Ev­ery minute, we have to be fo­cused on crush­ing our en­e­mies.”

Pom­peo is likely to be one of the most con­ser­va­tive sec­re­taries of state in his­tory. He was an out­spo­ken critic of Hil­lary Clin­ton on her han­dling of the ter­ror­ist at­tack on the U.S. di­plo­matic fa­cil­ity in Beng­hazi, Libya, and was the co-au­thor of an ad­den­dum to the House Beng­hazi com­mit­tee’s re­port be­cause he felt it did not go far enough.

He also re­peat­edly at­tacked the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s record on cli­mate change and has been skep­ti­cal of the hu­man role in caus­ing warm­ing. Since be­com­ing CIA di­rec­tor, he has not spo­ken pub­licly about cli­mate, although the agency did help put for­ward a World­wide Threat As­sess­ment that states cli­mate change con­trib­utes to national se­cu­rity threats.

Sen. Tom Cot­ton, R-ark., a close friend of Pom­peo who has trav­eled abroad with him of­ten, said that de­spite his some­times harsh lan­guage and strong views, Pom­peo is a good choice for the State Depart­ment.

“Mike con­sis­tently in our for­eign trav­els has been di­plo­matic but firm,” Cot­ton said. “He won’t dodge hard is­sues, but he won’t need­lessly an­tag­o­nize peo­ple.”

Jac­que­lyn Martin/the As­so­ci­ated Press

Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, shown at a speak­ing en­gage­ment last week at Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity in Fair­fax, Va., will for­mally step down March 31. The White House and the State Depart­ment of­fered dif­fer­ing ac­counts of whether he knew his fir­ing was im­mi­nent.

CIA Di­rec­tor Mike Pom­peo is to be re­placed at the CIA by his cur­rent deputy, Gina Haspel.

Saul Loeb/agence France-presse

If con­firmed to re­place Rex Tiller­son as sec­re­tary of state, Mike Pom­peo, 54, will be­come the first per­son to have served as both the na­tion’s top spy and top diplo­mat.

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