Pompeo, Trump's Pick for Secretary of State, Vows Diplomatic Approach to Iran
President Donald Trump's pick to become Washington's top diplomat pledged Thursday to work with US allies to strengthen the Iran deal and played down fears he is bent on regime change in North Korea.
Mike Pompeo, the outgoing director of the Central Intelligence Agency, disavowed his reputation as a "war hawk" and an anti-Muslim hardliner as he sought to woo support from senators to become the next US secretary of state.
He told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he would restore "swagger" to a State Department left in tatters by Rex Tillerson, and strengthen relations with US partners left ragged after the tumultuous first year of President Donald Trump's administration.
Pompeo, a former congressman, emphasized his close relationship with Trump—something Tillerson never had—and his time at the CIA, which he said had given him a strong appreciation for the necessity to work closely with foreign partners.
He promised to fill scores of unoccupied diplomatic posts, to spend time with the staff and delegate authority, saying current state department staff are "demoralized" and "do not feel relevant."
"All of this—listening, leveraging differences, unleashing talent, teamwork—will become the fabric of a State Department culture that finds its swagger once again," he said.
Reputation as Hardliner
With a series of tough foreign policy challenges looming, Trump has made the 54-year-old West Point and Harvard Law graduate a key aide for his second year in office, along with fellow arch-conservative John Bolton, who joined the White House this week as the president's national security advisor.
Bolton later lavished praise on Pompeo, describing him as a "talented and experienced public servant" as well as a "good friend."
"We need him as secretary of state as we support the president and take on some of the toughest foreign policy issues of our time," he said in a statement.
He was also quizzed on former statements, when he was a congressman from Kansas, that have led him to be cast as anti-Muslim and anti-gay. But he cited his record in the CIA as supporting a diverse workforce, "focusing on mission and demanding that every team member be treated equally and with dignity and respect."
Confirmation Not Certain
After five hours of testimony, though, Pompeo's confirmation by the committee, and then the entire Senate, was not assured, even though his nomination in early 2017 as CIA director passed easily.
One Republican senator on the committee, Rand Paul, has declared himself opposed, meaning at least one Democrat will have to cross party lines and support him to see the nomination through to a full vote.
But Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican hawk on foreign policy, has said Pompeo would be taking over during a "dangerous" period globally, and that "I think he's the right guy at the right time." A committee vote is expected sometime later this month.
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