Mike Pompeo is leaving his post as CIA director to become President Trump’s new secretary of state, the White House announced on March 13.
Mike Pompeo, who would be the first CIA director to head the State Department, is taking over the position ahead of Trump’s planned upcoming meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He’s replacing Rex Tillerson, a former ExxonMobil chief.
“I have gotten to know Mike very well over the past 14 months, and I am confident he is the right person for the job at this critical juncture,” Trump said in a statement. “He will continue our program of restoring America’s standing in the world, strengthening our alliances, confronting our adversaries, and seeking the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Pompeo, 54, said he is “deeply grateful” to the president for the job and said he looks forward to “representing him and the American people to the rest of the world to further America’s prosperity.”
Should Pompeo be confirmed, read on for a look at the Trump administration’s newest secretary of state.
What is Pompeo’s background?
Pompeo graduated first in his class at West Point, where he “served with distinction in the U.S. Army,” Trump said after promoting him.
He is a former cavalry officer, who patrolled the Iron Curtain prior to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, according to his CIA biography. He served in the Army from 1986 to 1991.
Mike Pompeo later received a law degree from Harvard University in 1994.
After college, Pompeo started Thayer Aerospace, an specialized machine firm that was reportedly backed by conservative mega-donors David and Charles Koch. Pompeo served as its chief executive officer for more than 10 years.
The Wichita Business Journal heaped praise on Pompeo and Thayer for securing a $124 million contract with Vought Aircraft Industries in 2000. It said Thayer is “a great example of the entrepreneurial spirit that drives the Wichita economy.”
Mike Pompeo stepped aside from Thayer in 2006, according to the Wichita Business Journal.
Pompeo would eventually become president of Sentry International, a company that sold equipment for oil fields and manufacturing.
He is married with one son.
What about his political career?
As a Republican, Pompeo represented the 4th congressional district of Kansas from January 2011 to January 2017, when he was sworn in as CIA director. He was elected to Congress during the Tea Party movement.
While in Congress, Pompeo was part of the contentious House Select Benghazi Committee, which probed the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya. The committee sharply criticized the Obama administration – particularly former secretary of state Hillary Clinton – for the handling of the attack and its aftermath.
Mike Pompeo called Clinton “morally reprehensible.”
Additionally, Pompeo has often lambasted the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, which granted Tehran sanctions relief for rolling back its nuclear weapons program.
Mike Pompeo was confirmed as the CIA director by the Senate with a 66 to 32 vote on January 23, 2017. Two Democrats, Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy – both from Connecticut – abstained from the vote.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky voted against Pompeo. He told Fox News at the time he was worried Pompeo’s “desire for security will trump his defense of liberty.”
On March 13, the White House announced Pompeo would take over as secretary of state.
“As Director of the CIA, Mike has earned the praise of members in both parties by strengthening our intelligence gathering, modernizing our defensive and offensive capabilities, and building close ties with our friends and allies in the international intelligence community,” Trump said.