- President Donald Trump sending CIA director Mike Pompeo to North Korea to conduct diplomacy while Pompeo awaits Senate confirmation looks to have put Democrats in a tough spot.
- Trump’s dismissal of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and a packed schedule of upcoming high-stakes diplomatic affairs has made the confirmation of a new top US diplomat more urgent.
- Now Democrats in the Senate must pick between sticking to their values and leaving the US without a Secretary of State as the Trump administration heads into negotiations with Kim Jong Un, China, and Iran.
President Donald Trump sending CIA director Mike Pompeo to North Korea to conduct diplomacy while Pompeo awaits Senate confirmation looks to have put Democrats in a tough spot.
By dismissing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just months before a high-stakes meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Trump has upped the pressure on Senate Democrats to confirm a nominee for a top diplomat who they genuinely seem not to like.
Pompeo failed to get the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s approval for the post, but he could now be headed to a vote on the Senate floor. All 49 Democrats will have to heavily weigh the benefit of denying a nominee they disagree with against leaving the US without its top diplomat.
Democrats in the Foreign Relations Committee grilled Pompeo on his apparent allegiance to Trump, past comments on Muslims, and stances LGBT rights, ultimately denying him the recommendation.
But while the Senate argues about whether or not Pompeo is fit for the job, the CIA director seems to have already started preparing for the position with a secret visit to North Korea in April.
“If some of my colleagues are concerned that Pompeo is holding high level talks w/ NK because that’s a role of a Secretary of State, they should act quickly and confirm him. I have full confidence in his ability to lead these talks to denuclearize the Kim regime,” Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado tweeted.
Trump has an upcoming meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in the summer, ongoing trade disputes with China, a troubled relationship that has teetered on the brink of conflict with Russia, and a deadline to “fix” the Iran deal by May 12.
With 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats in the Senate, and Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky coming out against Pompeo to head the State Department, Trump needs to sway a few Democrats and keep the other Republicans in line to get his pick.
Already, the Democrats have shown a small sign of fracturing under the pressure, as Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia met with Pompeo on Tuesday and said it went well.
But it was Trump who dismissed Tillerson with a stack of diplomatic tasks still urgently needing attendance.
If Republicans use the pressing need for US diplomatic leadership as a case to compel Democrats to vote against their interests, then they’ll in part be using a crisis of Trump’s own making.