Secretary of State Mike Pompeo faced down a largely hostile collection of lawmakers this week as he testified before the Senate regarding the Trump administration’s latest foreign policy efforts. Senators from both parties came to the hearing ready to grill Pompeo on the president’s Helsinki summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, but Pompeo held his own, giving what amounted to one of the most robust defenses of the administration’s foreign policy choices to date.
One of Pompeo’s fiercest questioners turned out to be Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican who has been on the president’s bad side for months. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Corker opened the hearing with a round of criticism towards Trump’s meeting with Putin and towards his foreign policy strategy in general.
“To purposefully cause the American people to misunderstand about the NATO contributions, and to cause them to doubt NATO and to really drive the public opinion against NATO — that to me was purposeful, not unlike what happened right after Charlottesville,” Corker said. “Why does he do those things? Is there some strategy behind creating doubt in U.S. senators’ minds on both sides of the aisle, doubt in the American people, as to what his motivations are? It’s the president’s actions that create tremendous distrust in our nation, among our allies — it’s palpable. Is there a strategy to this?”
Pompeo maintained that the Trump “administration has been tougher than previous administrations” in terms of Russia before addressing Corker’s premise that the president is winging it on foreign affairs.
“Senator, I just disagree with most of what you just said there,” Pompeo said. “Somehow there is this idea that this administration is free-floating. This is President Trump’s administration. Make no mistake who’s fully in charge of this, and directing each of these activities that is causing Vladimir Putin to be in a very difficult place today.
“We’ll let the world decide,” Pompeo continued, in regards to Trump putting pressure on NATO allies. “They are behaving differently today, there’s no doubt about that. They are now scrambling to make sure they are a full part of NATO.”
To that point, Corker had no choice but to concede.
But the grilling wasn’t finished; disgraced (but miraculously “not guilty”) and corrupt New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez spent quite a while fishing for any tidbits he could get out of Pompeo regarding the Helsinki summit before the Secretary decided he’s had enough.
“I understand the game that you’re playing,” Pompeo said.
Menendez bristled. “I don’t appreciate you characterizing my questions.”
Yeah, well, whine about it to CNN, Bob.
Overall, Pompeo has proven to be a much stronger Secretary of State than the last guy, and he was a forceful defender of the president (and the MAGA agenda) in front of a hostile Senate on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Republicans like Corker just showed once again that they’re more interested in impressing the liberal press than they are in furthering America’s interests abroad. Or, hell, maybe they just don’t get it.
Either way, times are a-changing.