The impeachment inquiry has created a crack in the seemingly unbreakable bond between President Donald Trump and his closest ally, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The story. According to four current and former senior administration officials, Trump has raved for weeks that Pompeo is responsible for hiring State Department officials whose congressional testimony threatens to bring down his presidency. Trump has confronted Pompeo about the officials during lunch at the White House on Oct. 29. Inside the White House, the view was that Trump “just felt like, ‘rein your people in,’” a senior administration official said.
Trump particularly blames Pompeo for tapping Ambassador Bill Taylor in June to be the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, the officials said. Taylor has provided the House Intelligence Committee with some of the most damaging details on the White House’s effort to pressure Ukraine into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden, NBC News reports.
The impeachment inquiry has put Pompeo in an untenable position — trying to manage a bureaucracy of 75,000 people that has soured on his leadership, one senior administration official described.
“He feels like he’s getting a bunch of blame from the president and the White House for having hired all these people who are turning against Trump,” an official familiar with the matter said of Pompeo, “and that it’s the State Department that is going to bring him down, so it’s all Pompeo’s fault.”
Four current State Department officials have testified before the House Intelligence Committee. Three of them — Taylor, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and the deputy assistant secretary at the State Department in charge of Europe, George Kent — appeared before the committee last week to deliver the first public testimony in the impeachment inquiry.
In public testimony on Friday, Yovanovitch appeared to condemn Pompeo for “the failure of State Department leadership to push back as foreign and corrupt interests apparently hijacked our Ukraine policy.”
“It is the responsibility of the department’s leaders to stand up for the institution and the individuals who make that institution the most effective diplomatic force in the world,” she said.
Trump has hinted publicly at tensions with Pompeo, the first on Oct. 23, officials said, when Trump wrote on Twitter:
Trump followed up with another tweet specifically calling Taylor, and his lawyer, “Never Trumpers.” Two days later, Trump said Pompeo “made a mistake” in hiring Taylor.
“Here’s the problem: He’s a never Trumper, and his lawyer is,” Trump told reporters about Taylor. “The other problem is — hey, everyone makes mistakes — Mike Pompeo. Everybody makes mistakes.”
Throughout the impeachment inquiry, Pompeo and Trump have maintained their weekly lunches at the White House, according to the president’s public schedule. But the president was angry when he arrived in his private dining room on Oct. 29, two officials said. Pompeo defended himself, officials said, by telling Trump he doesn’t know who half of these State Department officials are. He also noted that there are thousands of employees at the agency, explaining that he can’t control them.
“Pompeo feels under siege,” one official said.
“Pompeo is hated by his building,” a person close to the secretary said, adding that he “feels the heat a great deal and feels it’s personal at state.”
Image courtesy of U.S. Department of State