People For the American Way

“Trumptastrophe”: Mike Pompeo edition

News and Analysis
“Trumptastrophe”: Mike Pompeo edition
Photo by Gage Skidmore

Welcome to our weekly “Trumptastrophe” series that serves to remind us all of the destructive policies, decisions, and actions we encountered during the Trump presidency and the threats that he and others in the MAGA movement still pose – and to keep those moments clear in our memory as we fight to defeat Republican extremists during the upcoming elections.

This week’s Trumptastrophe brings into focus Trump’s choice for Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who exploited his position to lead a crusade to promote Christian nationalist ideology, and the likelihood that someone just as bad – if not worse – would likely fill that role if Trump were to be reelected:

On March 13, 2018, Trump announced that then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo would be his next Secretary of State. Pompeo eventually became known as the “most Trumpy” of Cabinet members, and possibly the worst secretary of state in history. As the Trump administration came to a close, Douglas Alexander of Harvard Kennedy School’s Future of Democracy Project told the Los Angeles Times that Pompeo “seemed more of a democracy denier than a democracy promoter, more rooted in domestic politics than foreign policy.”

Pompeo’s rise paralleled the increasingly aggressive Christian nationalism of the right wing in general and MAGA movement in particular. As a member of Congress, he had demonstrated hostility to religious pluralism, aligning himself with a pastor who delivered a prayer in the state legislature criticizing America for having “worshipped other Gods and called it multiculturalism.” He had a long relationship with hard-right anti-Muslim activists. Pompeo also used his position to open doors for Ralph Drollinger and his Capitol Ministries to set up operations in foreign capitals designed to “disciple” public officials into Drollinger’s right-wing biblical worldview.

Pompeo affirmed his anti-LGBTQ positions during his confirmation hearing, a foreshadowing of the ways he used his office to resist the advance of legal protections for LGBTQ people around the globe. Right Wing Watch reported at the time on the Trump administration’s relentless efforts to build new anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ equality coalitions, partnering with authoritarian leaders including some of the world’s most repressive regimes. That work built up to the October 2020 launch of the so-called “Geneva Consensus,” which cloaks restrictions on women’s rights and reproductive choice in the language of women’s health. Foreign Policy magazine concluded that the Trump administration’s legacy was “a global alliance against women’s rights.”

Pompeo also created a Commission on Unalienable Rights to advance the vision of anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ strategist Robert George. Pompeo declared that religious liberty and property rights were the “foremost” rights, and >said the commission would return U.S. human rights policy to the “Judeo-Christian tradition on which this country was founded.” Human rights advocates were appalled by the commission’s work, with the Council for Global Equality saying that a draft report “hands dictators a roadmap to justify abuses based on their culture, religion and national traditions.” One global human rights advocate called the commission a “gift” to “autocrats across the world.”

Trump’s choice of Mike Pompeo to be his secretary of state is a warning about how terrible a new Trump cabinet is likely to be:

  • Disregard for Democracy: Pompeo publicly defended Trump’s attempt to hang onto power after losing the 2020 election, telling a reporter it was “ridiculous” to ask whether Trump’s efforts undermined U.S. standing to advocate for free and fair elections oversees. Pompeo also impeded preparations for a transition. Willingness to embrace Trump’s damaging lies about the 2020 election is likely to be a requirement for any administration official.
  • Contempt for Government Employees: Morale at the State Department plummeted under Pompeo, and career staff left in droves, leaving key positions vacant as the Trump administration came to a close. Pompeo stood by when Trump’s team unfairly savaged U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, a career diplomat. Trump has vowed to obliterate the “deep state,” and his ally Vivek Ramaswamy vowed at CPAC that “we” would fire 75 percent of federal bureaucrats.
  • Lack of Ethics: Pompeo also demonstrated that he shared Trump’s attitude that ethics rules were for other people. Pompeo and his wife hosted, at taxpayer expense, “elaborate, unpublicized” dinners that other State Department officials believed were “essentially using federal resources to cultivate a donor and supporter base for Pompeo’s political ambitions,” as NBC reported. Days before the 2020 Republican National Convention, Pompeo changed department rules—only for himself—so that he could deliver a speech endorsing Trump, which the Office of Special Counsel determined was a violation of law. The State Department Office of Inspector General concluded after Trump left office that Pompeo and his wife had inappropriately used employees more than 100 times to do their personal business, including taking care of their dog and addressing their personal Christmas cards. Pompeo resisted efforts to hold him accountable, disrupting investigations and firing the department’s Inspector General, an internal watchdog position. He also stonewalled congressional investigators.
  • Hostility to Media: Pompeo followed his boss’s lead when it came to the press. He lashed out against veteran NPR journalist Mary Louise Kelly when he didn’t like the questions she asked, and smeared her by questioning her honesty and knowledge of geography. Trump and his team are vowing to “go after” media outlets whose coverage they don’t like.
  • Defending Dictators: Pompeo backed the Saudi government after its assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, portraying Khashoggi as a terrorist sympathizer and “activist” rather than a journalist. The recent Conservative Political Action Conference was a love-fest for right-wing authoritarian politicians and a call to give Trump the power he craves.

Trump has made it clear that in a new administration he will surround himself only with people who are absolutely loyal to him and committed to the MAGA movement—people like anti-immigrant extremist Stephen Miller. The Heritage Foundation and its Project 2025 are pre-vetting thousands of MAGA-minded activists to flood the federal government and overwhelm institutional and legal checks and balances, giving Trump near-dictatorial powers to advance the right wing’s destructive agenda.

These are just some of the reasons we need YOU in this fight. So, find your favorite way to unwind after reading through this week’s recap, and then make a plan for how you will fight back this week, this month, this election cycle.


Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo, Trumptastrophe