Pompeo Faces Political Peril and Diplomats’ Revolt in Impeachment Inquiry
Pompeo’s spreading of a false narrative at the heart of the Ukraine scandal is the most striking example of how he has fallen off the tightrope he has traversed for the past 18 months: demonstrating loyalty to the president while insisting to others he was pursuing a traditional, conservative foreign policy. Pompeo, 55, now finds himself at the most perilous moment of his political life as veteran diplomats testify to Congress that Trump and his allies hijacked Ukraine policy for political gain — and as congressional investigators look into what Pompeo knew of the machinations of Trump and Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer.
It was Pompeo who helped Trump and Giuliani oust the respected U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, in April. Both Michael McKinley, a senior adviser to. 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 Yovanovitch from false accusations, only to be rejected. McKinley said he personally urged Pompeo three times to issue a defense; the revelation of that detail in a transcript released on Monday undercut a declaration Pompeo made in an interview last month that he “never heard” McKinley “say a single thing” about Yovanovitch’s ouster.
Two weeks ago, Pompeo did not speak out on behalf of the war veteran he asked to fill Yovanovitch’s job, William B. Taylor Jr., after Trump attacked the diplomat over his blistering testimony on the president’s quid pro quo demands. In fact, Pompeo has tried to block officials under him from testifying.
At the same time, 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 Trump and letting the president’s personal political agenda infect foreign policy.
Many diplomats now contend that Pompeo has done more damage to the 75,000-person agency than even his predecessor Rex Tillerson, an aloof oil executive reviled by department employees.
“In my view, and I say this with a great deal of reluctance as Secretary Pompeo tried at the start of his tenure to lift up the career service, he has failed the men and women of the department in his most important responsibility — to support them in the deepest crisis the service has faced in memory,” said Nicholas Burns, the State Department’s top career official under President George W. Bush and now a Harvard professor who advises Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.
Some State Department officials have resorted to back channels to voice their complaints, congressional aides said. Over the summer, as confidence in Pompeo eroded, a stream of career officials spoke quietly with congressional offices about their concerns over administration policy — on the hold on Ukraine military aid, a move to cut $4 billion of foreign aid and arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
On Oct. 23, the three congressional impeachment committees said Pompeo had overseen a “culture of harassment and impunity.” That echoed what Yovanovitch had told investigators: The State Department was being “attacked and hollowed out from within,” she said.
In interviews Oct. 30 with Fox News and The New York Post, two of Trump’s favorite media organizations, Pompeo pushed a new conspiracy theory involving Biden’s son and President Barack Obama’s policy of military aid to Ukraine — a theory that career officials under him find outlandish.
“Pompeo has consistently demonstrated that the only safe place on Trump’s foreign policy team is to be more Trumpian than the president himself,” said Andrew Weiss, a former official with the White House National Security Council, the State Department and the Pentagon in Democratic and Republican administrations. “Whether that means trafficking in over-the-top partisan attacks on Trump’s opponents or conspiracy-mongering about the 2016 election and the Ukraine scandal, he’s always willing to go there.”
“It seems that the only thing Pompeo is consistently prioritizing is his own personal political ambitions as opposed to what’s actually good for the country’s long-term national interests or the institutional well-being of the State Department,” added Weiss, now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The recent wave of criticism has made Pompeo, known for a short fuse, even more testy in public. When a reporter asked Pompeo whether Trump’s abandonment of Kurdish partners in Syria had undercut U.S. credibility, he lashed out, saying, “The whole predicate of your question is insane.”
A battered diplomatic corps is finding some solace in the nomination by Trump and Pompeo last Thursday of their North Korea envoy, Stephen E. Biegun, as the deputy secretary of state. Biegun is a longtime national security professional who worked for Condoleezza Rice in the Bush administration.
Still, Pompeo’s problems are growing as his frequent trips to Kansas, his adopted home state, come under greater scrutiny.
Last Tuesday, Sen. Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked the U.S. Office of Special Counsel to look into whether Pompeo was violating the Hatch Act by traveling to Kansas four times this year, three on taxpayer-funded official trips. Many people speculate that Pompeo, a former Republican Tea Party congressman backed by the Koch family, plans to run for the Senate next year, and that the trips amount to a shadow campaign.
On Oct. 25, as Pompeo was on his most recent visit, made with Ivanka Trump, The Kansas City Star ran an editorial with the headline “Mike Pompeo, Either Quit and Run for U.S. Senate in Kansas or Focus on Your Day Job.”
“He should by all means focus on U.S. diplomacy — remember diplomacy? — and stop hanging out here every chance he gets,” it said.
But it is Pompeo’s murky role in the shadow Ukraine policy that is keeping him in the cross hairs. Congressional investigators have subpoenaed his old friend and former business partner, Ulrich T. Brechbuhl, the State Department’s counselor.
The State Department did not answer detailed questions submitted for this article. In a combative interview with ABC News on Oct. 20, Pompeo declined to discuss Ukraine. He addressed the issue of low morale in his department by saying, “I see motivated officers.”
The revelations on Ukraine have shown Pompeo had direct knowledge of Trump’s shadow policy, and seems to have enabled it.
In October, after the publication of news reports, Pompeo admitted he took part in the pivotal July telephone call between. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine. That was the same call that prompted a CIA employee to file the whistleblower complaint that ignited the impeachment inquiry.
And in August, Pompeo received an urgent cable from Taylor, the chief of mission in Ukraine, saying it was “folly” to withhold U.S. military aid to Ukraine.
Though Taylor said that he heard Pompeo brought that Aug. 29 cable to the White House, Pompeo has refused to say what he advised. Some people familiar with the issue say he urged the president to resume military aid in September, fearful that the pressure on Ukrainian leaders for political favors would come back to bite the administration.
In April, Pompeo complied when Trump ordered Yovanovitch removed from her ambassador post, the result of a right-wing media campaign by Giuliani and his associates that asserted, without evidence, that the ambassador had disparaged Trump.
John J. Sullivan,. Pompeo’s deputy and Trump’s nominee for ambassador to Russia, conceded at a Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday that he knew Giuliani was among those trying to “smear” Yovanovitch, but said he was told by Pompeo only that the president “had lost confidence in her.”
Yovanovitch testified that Sullivan had told her that department leaders feared that if they did not remove her immediately from her post, Trump would humiliate her with a tweet.
For career officials, Yovanovitch, a three-time ambassador, is a rallying point. Multiple op-eds and open letters with scores of signatures from former officials have called on Pompeo to defend Yovanovitch and the other officials who are shedding light on policies.
The latest letter, with more than 400 signatures from mostly former employees of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said State Department colleagues were “under siege.” “We are angered at the treatment of dedicated, experienced and wise public servants like Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch,” it said.
McKinley told lawmakers Oct. 16 that he resigned recently because department leaders had failed to support diplomats caught up in the impeachment inquiry, and because of “the engagement of our missions to procure negative political information for domestic purposes,” according to a transcript of the testimony.
He said he believed the State Department was being used to dig up dirt on a political opponent of the president. “In 37 years in the Foreign Service and different parts of the globe and working on many controversial issues, working 10 years back in Washington, I had never seen that,” he said.
McKinley also spoke of low morale arising from the leadership’s inaction after the department’s inspector general released a report in August that detailed how two political appointees in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs — assistant secretary Kevin Moley and his senior adviser Marie Stull — had harassed career employees. The inspector general is finalizing a similar investigation into another appointee, Brian H. Hook, the special representative on Iran.
“Morale at the State Department is rock bottom, but spirits have been lifted by the courage of these patriots,” Wendy Sherman, the department’s third-ranking official under President Barack Obama, said of McKinley and others testifying.
While failing to back his veteran diplomats, Pompeo has taken to the airwaves to defend Giuliani.
Pompeo told CBS News on Sept. 22 that Giuliani’s request of Ukraine to investigate Biden was appropriate. “I think the American people deserve to know,” he said.
Giuliani said Pompeo had told him that he “was aware of” Giuliani’s efforts, and Giuliani passed a dossier of questionable documents on Ukraine to Pompeo. The State Department special representative for Ukraine, Kurt D. Volker, was involved in Giuliani’s interactions with Ukrainian officials.
Gordon D. Sondland, a Trump campaign donor and ambassador to the European Union who was a main player in the quid pro quo demands on Ukraine, told congressional investigators on Oct. 17 that Pompeo had endorsed his activities.
“I understand that all my actions involving Ukraine had the blessing of Secretary Pompeo as my work was consistent with long-standing U.S. foreign policy objectives,” he said. “Indeed, very recently, Secretary Pompeo sent me a congratulatory note that I was doing great work, and he encouraged me to keep banging away.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
© 2019 The New York Times Company
WASHINGTON — A U.S. withdrawal from Syria will strain the links that the U.S. intelligence community has painstakingly built with both Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish forces, according to current and former government officials with long experience in the Middle East.
Just as Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish militias were central players in the U.S.-led coalition’s campaign to destroy the Islamic State group’s physical caliphate, the Kurds also provided critical intelligence to their U.S. counterparts.
“The intel that we’re getting from the Kurds is incredible,” said a former U.S. government official with close ties to the group, whose population spans Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. As an example, he cited the Oct. 26 raid that led to the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, which he said was based on Kurdish intelligence. “That was the Kurds,” he said. (The New York Times reported that Syrian and Iraqi Kurds provided crucial intelligence for the raid.)
A U.S. withdrawal from Syria would place the United States’ ability to get such intelligence at risk and could result in the compromise of some U.S. intelligence techniques, according to current and former government officials.
“The viability of a long-term intelligence relationship with the Syrian Kurds will certainly be challenged by the extension of Syrian government control east of the Euphrates River,” said a senior Defense Department official, who like other sources for this story insisted on speaking anonymously in order to discuss sensitive intelligence issues.
“We could be blind, especially if we’re not cultivating those relationships in eastern Syria,” said a former U.S. government official with close ties to the Kurds.
“We’ve had an excellent relationship with the Kurds, and particularly in Syria,” said the senior Defense Department official. “They, over the last several years, have been an extremely valuable partner in gathering human intelligence on the ground — the things you can’t learn from ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft]. The future of that relationship … is going to be challenged by not having routine direct access to them.”
President Donald Trump formally notified the United Nations Monday of the US withdrawal, triggering concerns of how other nations might react
Paris (AFP) – More than 11,000 scientists warned Tuesday of „untold suffering” due to global warming, even as another team said Paris carbon-cutting pledges are „too little, too late”.
The European Union, meanwhile, confirmed that last month was the warmest October ever registered, fast on heels of a record September and the hottest month ever in July.
Three-quarters of national commitments under the Paris climate accord to curb greenhouse gases will not even slow the accelerating pace of global warming, according to a report from five senior scientists.
The sobering assessment came a day after President Donald Trump formally notified the United Nations of the US withdrawal from the 2015 Paris climate pact, triggering concerns of how other nations might react.
„With few exceptions, the pledges of rich, middle-income and poor nations are insufficient to address climate change,” said Robert Watson, who chaired both the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the UN’s science body for biodiversity.
„As they stand, the pledges are far too little, too late.”
In parallel, more than 11,000 scientists sounded a five-bell alarm in the peer-reviewed journal BioScience, noting that the world had failed to act on global warming despite the accumulation of evidence over 30 years.
„We declare, clearly and unequivocally, that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency,” the statement said.
Emissions of the gases warming Earth’s surface must drop 50 percent by 2030 and to „net zero” — with no additional carbon entering the atmosphere by mid-century — if the Paris treaty’s goal of capping warming at 1.5 to 2.0 degrees Celsius is to be met, the IPCC concluded last year.
And yet 2018 saw unprecedented global carbon pollution of more than 41 billion tonnes, two percent higher that 2017, also a record year.
Global temperatures have increased 1 C above pre-industrial levels — enough to boost the impact of deadly heatwaves, floods and superstorms — and are on track to rise another two or three degrees by the end of the century.
„Failing to reduce emissions drastically and rapidly will result in an environmental and economic disaster,” said James McCarty, a professor of oceanography at Harvard University, and co-author of the analysis of voluntary Paris pledges to reduce carbon pollution.
Just over half of greenhouse gas emissions from power, industry, agriculture and deforestation — the main drivers of global warming — came from four nations last year: China, the United States, India and Russia.
Accounting for 13.1 percent of the total, the US has turned its back on the Paris deal.
„China and India could say ‘damn it, we’re going to demonstrate to the world that we are climate leaders’,” Watson told AFP.
– EU gets passing marks –
„Or they could say ‘if the US is not going to do it, we’re not going to either’. It could go either way.”
China has said it will lower carbon intensity and peak emissions by about 2030.
But the size and staggering growth of its economy will likely overwhelm such marginal improvements, the scientists said.
At 29 percent of the global total, China alone pumps out more CO2 than the next three nations combined, though about 13 percent of those emissions are generated by exports destined for rich nations, recent research has shown.
India, which is ramping up both renewable energy and carbon-intensive coal-fired power, accounted for seven percent in 2018, and Russia — which has made no pledge at all — added 4.6 percent.
The efforts of the world’s top four emitters was deemed „insufficient”, according to the report.
All told, nearly three-quarters of 184 registered pledges were judged inadequate to stop climate change from continuing to accelerate in the next decade.
All but a handful are unchanged since being submitted in 2015 and 2016.
Among major economic blocs, only the European Union, with its 28 member states, got a passing mark.
„The EU is clearly in the lead in trying to address the climate crisis,” Watson said.
The emissions of the world’s poorest nations have been and continue to be negligible, but steps must be taken today to shape their energy futures.
„Sooner or later, they will start to grow, and we don’t want them to become dependent on cheap fossil fuel energy,” Watson noted.
„They need financial and technical assistance.”
Under the Paris treaty, developing nations are to receive $100 billion annually from next year to help curb climate change and cope with its impacts.