Mike Pompeo, who is reportedly Donald Trump’s choice to head the CIA, is a three-term Republican representative from Kansas who serves on the House energy committee and was a member of the panel that investigated the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.
Pompeo, a conservative backed by the Koch Industries political-action committee, was elected to Congress in 2010 during the Tea Party wave. But he is perhaps best known for two things: His opposition to the recent nuclear deal Iran struck with the U.S. and other Western countries, and his work on the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
Pompeo and Jim Jordan, his ally on the Benghazi committee, felt its final report, approved by Trey Gowdy, the panel’s Republican chairman from South Carolina, did not sufficiently fault the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time, for the deadly attacks in 2012 that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Pompeo and Jordan released a supplement to the panel’s report that concluded Clinton “misled the public” about the events in Benghazi because of President Obama’s campaign for re-election. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump made Clinton’s actions during Benghazi a centerpiece of his attacks against her.
Pompeo’s thinking is likely allied with Trump on another foreign-policy issue: the nuclear deal with Iran that was signed last year. The Obama administration, its allies, and Russia negotiated the agreement that freezes the Islamic republic’s nuclear program for 15 years. Trump has called the agreement “the stupidest deal of all time.” Pompeo and Senator Tom Cotton, the Republican from Arkansas, had alleged the Obama administration offered Tehran “secret side deals” in exchange for the deal. They said officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is the UN’s nuclear watchdog, told them there were private arrangements with Iran on the inspections of military facilities. The Obama administration countered that this was standard practice in such negotiations.
Pompeo is a strong supporter of the National Security Agency’s mass-surveillance programs, which he has described as “important work.” He also said Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who revealed the agency’s programs, is a traitor who “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 has called Guantanamo Bay, where the U.S. holds suspects from the war on terrorism, “critical to national security,” and after a visit there said the detainees there looked like they “had put on weight.”
After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Pompeo said American Muslim leaders had a “special obligation” to speak out. He said: “Instead of responding, silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts and more importantly still, in those that may well follow.”
Pompeo graduated at the top of his class from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and served from 1986 to 1991, during the Cold War, as a cavalry officer. He then attended Harvard Law School and edited the Harvard Law Review before moving to Kansas where he and three partners founded Thayer Aerospace, a company that makes parts for commercial and military aircraft. He sold Thayer and became president of Sentry International, an oilfield-equipment-manufacturing company, before running successfully for a House seat in 2010.