April 25, 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) released the following statement regarding the nomination of CIA Director Mike Pompeo to serve as the Secretary of State.
“Director Pompeo would not be my choice for this position,” Senator King said in part. “But agreement with him on all issues cannot be the standard; if it were, every cabinet vote would be a partisan exercise with the party opposing the president voting ‘no’ on each nominee… The simple fact is that we need a Secretary of State, especially as Iran and North Korea are both coming to critically important decision points. In addition, the State Department itself is depleted, dispirited, and in desperate need of leadership and direction, which the Director’s experience at CIA indicates he can provide… based upon what I know of Mike Pompeo, I believe that…he will be a calm and well-informed voice. He knows his country expects and needs no less.”
The Senator’s full statement regarding his decision to vote yes on the nomination of Pompeo to be Secretary of State is available below:
“Since entering the Senate five years ago, I have had the opportunity and responsibility to vote on the confirmation of dozens of major presidential appointments – and hundreds of minor ones – under both President Obama as he began his second term, and now, President Trump. In making these decisions, I have tried to establish a consistent approach which respects both the Constitutional separation of powers (including the right of the president to name his own advisors) and the Constitutional requirement for the Senate’s ‘advice and consent’ to such nominations.
“I start with the premise that the president – any president – should have the right to name his or her team, except in unusual circumstances, and that the standard is not whether I would have chosen a given individual or whether I agree with the nominee’s political positions or ideology. This does not mean, however, that the Senate should simply rubber-stamp the president’s nominees; if this were the case, the advice and consent clause would have no meaning.
“The standard I have followed, therefore, is that the president is entitled to their nominee, unless that nominee is manifestly unqualified or has a record that is inconsistent with the mission of the agency they have been called upon to lead. It was for this latter reason that I voted against Scott Pruitt for the EPA, Tom Price at DHHS, Betsy DeVos at the Department of Education, and Mick Mulvaney at the Office of Management and Budget. But applying this same standard has led me to my decision to vote yes on the nomination of Mike Pompeo to be Secretary of State, despite serious reservations in a number of areas.
“Director Pompeo would not be my choice for this position; I strongly disagree with many of his positions on foreign and domestic policy, and certainly do not agree with some of his past statements on LGBT issues, reproductive rights, climate change, or Islam, among others. Perhaps most importantly, I’m worried about his previously stated opposition to the international agreement aimed at curbing Iranian production of nuclear weapons – especially as the President continues to threaten to leave the agreement even though many top Administration officials have agreed that remaining in the deal is in our national interest. On the other hand, he has conveyed to me a clear-eyed appreciation of the threat posed by Russia and their attack on our democracy in 2016.
“But agreement with him on all issues cannot be the standard; if it were, every cabinet vote would be a partisan exercise with the party opposing the president voting “no” on each nominee. Republicans certainly didn’t agree with Senator John Kerry’s positions on many issues in 2013, but they nonetheless voted overwhelmingly to confirm him for Secretary of State; similarly for the majority of Democrats who voted to confirm Condoleezza Rice in 2005 in spite of her central role in the decision to invade Iraq two years earlier. For that matter, until last year every Secretary of State nominee of either party for the past 50 years has received broad bipartisan support for their confirmation.
“In confronting this decision, I have interviewed Director Pompeo at length, attended a substantial portion of his hearing before the Foreign Relations Committee and listened carefully to his answers to my colleagues’ questions, reviewed many of his statements, read numerous articles and editorials, both pro and con, reached out to members of the Intelligence Community with regard to his performance there, reflected upon my many interactions with him over the course of the past year in my capacity as a member of the Intelligence Committee, and consulted with a number of foreign policy experts and practitioners whose counsel I respect. And all of this helped to form my conclusion to support his nomination.
“By any recent standard, Mike Pompeo is qualified by education and experience for this job. He graduated from West Point, served his country honorably in the Army, graduated from Harvard Law School, has business experience, and served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Most recently, and most importantly, he has served as the Director of the CIA, a job which requires a high level of engagement with leaders around the world on difficult and often contentious issues and also involves managing a large, diverse, and complex organization.
“Although significantly more hawkish than most Maine people – myself included – I believe he clearly understands the role of diplomacy in resolving international disputes, as well as the terrible costs when diplomacy fails. He demonstrated when he was at the CIA the capacity to deliver information that the president did not necessarily want to hear –that Iran is and has been in compliance with its obligations under the nuclear agreement, for example. And, importantly, he clearly has the confidence of the president, which means that at the very least, his advice and counsel will be heard and considered.
“The simple fact is that we need a Secretary of State, especially as Iran and North Korea are both coming to critically important decision points. In addition, the State Department itself is depleted, dispirited, and in desperate need of leadership and direction, which the Director’s experience at CIA indicates he can provide. The reality is that it is entirely possible that should Director Pompeo be denied confirmation, the position could remain vacant during this crucial period, or someone else could be nominated with many of his policy defects and none of his advantages.
“This has been a very difficult decision for me; the easier course would be to simply vote ‘no’ and move on, but I am convinced that this would not be consistent with my responsibility to Maine, the country, or the Constitution. In the end, the central question is what will he say and do in the Oval Office at a time of crisis. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of holding my vote until that question can be finally answered, but based upon what I know of Mike Pompeo, I believe that in those circumstances, he will be a calm and well-informed voice. He knows his country expects and needs no less.”