There was an argument that Pompeo was stepping into a situation ripe with possibility. At the time, I even told Isaac Chotiner: “Pompeo has the possibility, and let me stress the word possibility, of getting what I call the bad-boyfriend benefit from replacing Tillerson. Tillerson was such a disastrous secretary of state — you can see the evidence in senior people exiting, in the low morale in the remaining bureaucracy. All Pompeo has to do are a couple acts of decency or gestures toward the building.”
As it turns out, Pompeo and decency do not mix. He needs to resign.
As I noted Thursday, the one thing Pompeo has done better than Tillerson is ingratiate himself to Trump. He’s made his Faustian bargain, and an argument could be made that it is worth it. Other policymakers have navigated Trump-infested waters and managed to keep their dignity intact. Why not Pompeo?
The problem is that to stay in the good graces of Trump, Pompeo has sacrificed every other principle he possesses. His performance this week exposed massive hypocrisy on his part, when he claimed that he cared about the Foreign Service when he really did not.
On Thursday, however, we learned the depth to which Pompeo was willing to sink. The Wall Street Journal broke the story that “President Trump ordered the removal of the ambassador to Ukraine [Marie Yovanovitch] after months of complaints from allies outside the administration, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, that she was undermining him abroad and obstructing efforts to persuade Kyiv to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.”
That is bad for Trump, but Pompeo’s complicity is also worth noting. The allegations that Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani was making toward Yovanovitch were bogus. Nonetheless, according to the WSJ, “State Department officials were told this spring that Ms. Yovanovitch’s removal was a priority for the president, a person familiar with the matter said. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo supported the move, an administration official said.” Giuliani also told the WSJ reporters that he gave Pompeo a nine-page dossier, which eventually found its way into the hands of the State Department acting general counsel and then State’s inspector general.
Pompeo’s approval and support of the Trump-Giuliani fabrications set the tone for his subordinates. We can see the effect of that in the explosive text messages that the House Intelligence Committee released Thursday evening that show multiple quid pro quos being discussed among top U.S. diplomats. As my Washington Post colleagues reported, “Senior State Department officials coordinated with the Ukrainian president’s top aide and President Trump’s personal lawyer to leverage a potential summit between the heads of state on a promise from the Ukrainians to investigate the 2016 U.S. election and an energy company that employed the son of 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden.”
There was also a discussion of the link between Ukraine investigating the Bidens and U.S. arms transfers. One longtime diplomat texts, “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” In response, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland responded with “I suggest we stop the back and forth by text.” As my Post colleague Philip Bump notes: “It’s generally not a good sign when a government official sends a written message questioning the propriety of an action and another official replies by suggesting they talk on the phone. The implication is that the second official is worried about leaving behind evidence of their conversation. A phone call doesn’t leave a paper trail.”
The facts are clear, according to these reports. Pompeo supported Trump and Giuliani’s fevered conspiracy theories about one of his own employees — Yovanovitch. He supported sacking that person to placate the president and facilitate using leverage over a foreign country for domestic political gain. He created a culture at State in which senior diplomats catered to every presidential whim regardless of its legality and morality. He has steadfastly refused to protect his employees from the abuse of Trump appointees. He shows absolutely zero remorse about any of these actions — indeed, he is empowering like-minded folks at the expense of more ethical diplomats.
Tillerson was an incompetent secretary of state, but he was a decent human being. Pompeo is a competent lackey for Trump and a person who has lost any moral compass he might have possessed. By staying on, he guarantees that his immorality will infect the rest of the State Department.
He should resign. He won’t, but he should.