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With curious views on gender roles, Trump tries to defend Pompeo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was reportedly facing an inspector general's investigation. Trump's defense is that he doesn't care whether Pompeo is guilty

Recent polling suggests Joe Biden is leading Donald Trump in this year's presidential campaign, in large part thanks to a sizable gender gap: the former vice president enjoys a significant advantage among women voters, while the Republican fares far better with men.

While defending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday, Trump seemed to take a step toward making his electoral dilemma quite a bit worse.

"Look, he's a high-quality person -- Mike. He's a very high quality -- he's a very brilliant guy. And now I have you telling me about dog walking, washing dishes. And you know what? I'd rather have him on the phone with some world leader than have him wash dishes, because maybe his wife isn't there or his kids aren't there. You know."

To the extent that reality matters, Pompeo is under fire because he directed the president to fire the State Department's independent watchdog -- former Inspector General Steve Linick -- while the Republican cabinet secretary was facing an investigation from the watchdog's office.

The nature of the probe is still coming into focus, though there were reportedly two lines of inquiry. Pompeo was investigated for circumventing Congress on a Saudi arms deal last year, as well as allegations that the secretary made agency officials run personal errands for him and his wife.

On the legally dubious arms deal with Saudi Arabia, Trump was evasive to an exasperating degree yesterday, and on the misuse of State Department staff, the president made clear that he doesn't care if the allegations are true.

After all, as Trump sees it, personal errands are Pompeo's wife's job, and if she's busy, those responsibilities -- dog walking, making dinner reservations, picking up dry cleaning, etc. -- should obviously fall on federally funded State Department personnel.

The president's line is a mess, in part because of his antiquated views on traditional gender roles, and in part because the problem is far more significant that Trump seems to realize.

As Rachel noted on the show last night, when Pompeo was the director of the CIA, his wife set up what amounted to her own office at CIA headquarters, including seeking assistance from the agency's employees. When Pompeo made the jump to the State Department, his wife again turned to federally funded staff for support.

For Trump, these alleged abuses are trivial and easy to dismiss, but again, the controversy is larger than a cabinet secretary and his wife misusing government personnel and resources. It also includes firing a federal inspector general, not for wrongdoing, but for scrutinizing Pompeo's alleged wrongdoing.

If the president were to disregard the findings of an IG investigation, that would be a problem. But firing the IG in order to derail the investigation is something else altogether.