The interview went largely overlooked, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talked to Fox News last week and casually brought up a truly ridiculous conspiracy theory. The nation’s top diplomat posited – to a national television audience – that the Obama administration might have withheld military aid to Ukraine because of an undetermined scheme involving Hunter Biden.
It was the kind of nonsense one might expect from a far-right Twitter feed with six followers, not a leading member of a presidential cabinet.
But Pompeo can’t seem to help himself. The New York Times published a brutal report overnight on the controversial secretary who peddles conspiracy theories he knows to be false, goes a bit too far to demonstrate loyalty to Donald Trump, keeps getting caught making claims that appear false, faces a revolt within the agency he ostensibly leads, and finds himself sinking deeper in an intensifying scandal.
It was Mr. Pompeo who helped Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani oust the respected American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, in April. Both Michael McKinley, a senior adviser to Mr. Pompeo and a four-time ambassador, and Philip T. Reeker, the acting assistant secretary for Europe, testified that they asked State Department leadership to defend Ms. Yovanovitch from false accusations, only to be rejected. Mr. McKinley said he personally urged Mr. Pompeo three times to issue a defense; the revelation of that detail in a transcript released on Monday undercut a declaration Mr. Pompeo made in an interview last month that he “never heard” Mr. McKinley “say a single thing” about Ms. Yovanovitch’s ouster.
Two weeks ago, Mr. Pompeo did not speak out on behalf of the war veteran he asked to fill Ms. Yovanovitch’s job, William B. Taylor Jr., after Mr. Trump attacked the diplomat over his blistering testimony on the president’s quid pro quo demands. In fact, Mr. Pompeo has tried to block officials under him from testifying.
At the same time, Mr. Pompeo is facing a revolt in the State Department. Confidence in his leadership has plummeted among career officials, who accuse him of abandoning veteran diplomats criticized by Mr. Trump and letting the president’s personal political agenda infect foreign policy.
Trump’s first secretary of State, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, was widely detested at his agency, in part because of his efforts to hollow out the State Department. Pompeo, however, is now seen as doing even more damage to the institution.
In a normal administration, Pompeo would not only be expected to resign, he might also start wondering about possibly seeking legal counsel. But in 2019, the Republican remains very much in Trump’s good graces.
Pompeo may even parlay his failures into a U.S. Senate campaign in Kansas next year, where he’d be seen as a heavy favorite, despite the recent controversies surrounding his apparent dishonesty and mismanagement.