By Greg Miller, The Washington Post
Mike Pompeo was confirmed as CIA director by the Senate on Monday, putting the conservative Kansas congressman in charge of an agency that is bracing for its most contentious relationship with the White House in decades.
As CIA director, Pompeo will be responsible for managing a global spying network at a time of escalating security problems, including renewed aggression from Russia, the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and the splintering terror threat posed by the Islamic State.
But, at least initially, Pompeo’s most vexing task may involve finding a way to establish a functional relationship between the CIA and President Trump.
The new commander in chief traveled to CIA headquarters Saturday, in a trip that was an effort to create a fresh start with an agency he has frequently treated with contempt.
Instead, what Trump delivered Saturday was largely a stream-of-consciousness airing of grievances, attacking Democrats and journalists.
(Rep. Mike Pompeo, President Trump’s pick for director of the CIA, was confirmed with a vote of 66-32 by the Senate. Pompeo will give up his congressional spot to lead the CIA. Courtesy of USA Today and YouTube)
Trump skipped most of the daily intelligence briefings offered him after his surprise election victory. He has dismissed the agency’s conclusions on critical issues, particularly its determination that Russia interfered in last year’s election to help him win. Most recently, Trump accused intelligence officials of orchestrating a Nazi-like campaign to smear him.
Trump has expressed confidence in Pompeo, a businessman who served as a tank commander in the Army and graduated at the top of his class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
“Intelligence agencies are vital and very, very important,” Trump said at his news conference this month. He singled out Pompeo, saying that his administration was “putting in some outstanding people.”
His comments signaled that his hostility toward the agency might subside when his designated director is in charge.
(Learn More about Mike Pompeo, courtesy of CNN and YouTube)
Pompeo, 53, was a prominent member of the tea party in Congress, known for strident political views.
He was a fierce critic of Clinton, a determined opponent of the Obama administration’s nuclear accord with Iran, and said at one point that he regarded the U.S. government’s conduct in the attacks on U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya, a political scandal that was “worse in some ways” than Watergate.
But Pompeo has spent the post-election period seeking to reassure CIA officials and members of Congress that he is prepared to put aside that partisan persona and be an honest broker as director of the CIA.
“My job,” Pompeo said during his confirmation hearing, “if confirmed, will be to change roles.”