In the Republican wave election of 2010, when Charles and David Koch emerged as defining figures in American politics, the greatest beneficiary of Koch Industries largesse was a political newcomer named Mike Pompeo. After his election to the House eight years ago, Pompeo was referred to as the “Koch Brothers’ Congressman” and “the congressman from Koch.”
Now Pompeo is positioned to become a Koch brothers–influenced secretary of state.
After serving for a little more than a year as Donald Trump’s top yes-man at the Central Intelligence Agency, Pompeo is Trump’s pick to replace Rex Tillerson, the administration’s listless placeholder at the Department of State.
In a measure of the extent to which Trump and Tillerson had disengaged from one another, the outgoing secretary of state apparently learned of his firing via Twitter Tuesday morning—when an aide showed the nation’s top diplomat a tweet from the president announcing the transition. A statement from the department indicated that Tillerson was “unaware of the reason” for his removal.
Tillerson displayed a measure of independence from Trump on issues ranging from Russian cyber attacks to the aggressive approach of Saudi Arabia to Qatar and other countries.
Pompeo’s pattern of deference to his political benefactors is likely to make him a better fit with a self-absorbed president. He will also bring to the position an edge that Tillerson lacked. Pompeo is a foreign-policy hawk who fiercely opposed the Iran nuclear deal, stoked fears about Muslims in the United States and abroad, opposed closing the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, and defended the National Security Agency’s unconstitutional surveillance programs as “good and important work.” He has even gone so far as to say that NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden “should be brought back from Russia and given due process, and I think the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence.”
Pompeo’s open disregard for privacy rights in particular and civil liberties in general, as well as his penchant for extreme language and more extreme policies, are anything but diplomatic. That’s likely to make him an even more troublesome Secretary of State than Tillerson, who was relentlessly corporate in his worldview but not generally inclined to pick fights—even when it came to standing up for a State Department that decayed on his watch.