Pompeo's pattern: quietly adding political meetings to official trips

The Secretary of State is confronting several controversies in which Mike Pompeo's principal focus appears to be advancing Mike Pompeo.
Image: Pompeo
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan Pompeo arrive at Blaise Diagne International Airport in Senegal on Feb. 15, 2020.Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / POOL via AFP - Getty Images file

When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went on a diplomatic trip to Latin America earlier this year, he quietly tacked on a stop in Florida to a retirement enclave populated by prominent Republican donors. When he went to London late last year on official business, Pompeo added another quiet meeting with Republican donors. It came on the heels of an official trip to Kansas, at which point the cabinet secretary huddled with billionaire donor Charles Koch.

The New York Times took note on the significance of the pattern.

In each of those instances, Mr. Pompeo did not put the visits on his public schedule. He and his aides avoided telling the reporters traveling with them about the meetings, though some news organizations reported them afterward.... Mr. Pompeo, President Trump's most loyal and powerful aide, has not tried to hide his political ambitions. But he has chosen not to disclose certain meetings that appeared to be linked to those plans while on taxpayer-funded trips.

Indeed, it's worth emphasizing that there may be other related meetings that have not yet come to light.

All of this comes against a backdrop in which the Kansas Republican has also been accused of, among other things, hosting a series of secret gatherings with powerful elites in which Pompeo was "essentially using federal resources to cultivate a donor and supporter base for Pompeo's political ambitions."

The secretary of State, of course, has also allegedly misused federal resources to benefit himself and his family -- which may have contributed to Pompeo' directing Donald Trump to fire the State Department's independent watchdog, Inspector General Steve Linick, late last Friday night.

There are, to be sure, a variety of controversies swirling around Pompeo right now, some of which are unrelated to the cabinet secretary using his office to advance his aspirations. But it's tough to miss the fact that he's confronting several trouble areas in which Mike Pompeo's principal focus appears to be helping Mike Pompeo.

The cabinet secretary's defense, to the extent that he's offered one, is to shrug off the allegations as "crazy stuff," despite the obvious legitimacy of the concerns. Congress' House Democratic majority is looking for quite a bit more.

Alarmed over what they call "potential abuses," a pair of congressional committees are demanding extensive documents from the State Department about a series of extravagant, government-funded dinners hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and revealed by an NBC News investigation this week. The chairs of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a joint letter Thursday to Pompeo, raised concerns that there was no clear official purpose for the roughly two dozen dinners, which Pompeo had hosted in the historic Diplomatic Reception Rooms until the coronavirus pandemic shut them down in March.

The House committees have requested, among other things, full guests lists, invoices, and ethical guidance Pompeo may (or may not) have received from his own department.

The chairs' joint letter gave the secretary of State a due date of June 4 to provide Congress with the requested information. Will Pompeo cooperate? Watch this space.