WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo chose the day of his boss’s impeachment to promote a very different kind of recognition for Donald Trump: Award the president the Nobel Peace Prize.
Mr Pompeo’s Wednesday (Jan 13) morning tweet said simply: “cc: @NobelPrize” beneath a picture of Mr Trump with Israeli and Arab leaders at the signing of a diplomatic agreement with the Jewish state in September.
It was part of what’s now a two-week campaign by Mr Pompeo on Twitter and in speeches and interviews to recount what he sees as the foreign-policy successes of the Trump administration’s “America First” approach.
He’s boasted about making America safer and “leadingfromthefront” without acknowledging the grim reality of a nation shaken by some 4,000 daily deaths from the coronavirus and by the Jan 6 riot by Mr Trump’s supporters fired into action by the president.
Mr Pompeo hasn’t disavowed Mr Trump’s false claims that he was robbed of re-election through voting fraud, and the secretary has condemned the rioters but not Mr Trump’s role in urging them to action.
“There’s the dissonance between everything the administration is trying to say in terms of policy and the fact that the entire world is galvanised by this non-peaceful transfer of power,” said Richard Fontaine, chief executive officer at the Center for a New American Security. “You had this historically traumatic experience for the country, and it’s just ‘silencio’ from the civilians at the top.”
As other administration officials have resigned or maintained an awkward silence, Mr Pompeo, one of the longest-serving loyalists in the Trump cabinet, has given no hint of distancing himself from the man who elevated him from relative obscurity in Congress and whose followers he may need to propel his political future.
Mr Pompeo has been widely considered to be planning a run for the presidency in 2024 – if Mr Trump isn’t able or willing to make a comeback – or he could run for governor of Kansas in 2022.
Mr Pompeo’s cascade of tweets, sometimes exceeding 20 a day, began on Jan 1 with a promise: “Over the coming days, I’m going to lay out the mission set, the huge wins, personal stories, and a lot more.”
Since then, Mr Pompeo’s tweets have highlighted what he sees as his biggest accomplishments, from forging a tougher stance against China to withdrawing from the World Health Organisation.
The postings on the social network that has banned Mr Trump also offer a window into Mr Pompeo as a combative partisan with Tea Party roots, as he aims frequent slights and jabs at his Democratic enemies.
On Wednesday, Mr Pompeo derided former Secretary of State John Kerry – President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for climate-change envoy – for saying at an event in 2016 that peace is unachievable in the Arab world without first making peace with the Palestinians.
The administration has touted the Abraham Accords, a set of normalisation agreements between Israel and Arab nations as proof of how wrong Kerry was.
“Remember this Middle East ‘expert’?,” Mr Pompeo wrote in a tweet above a video clip of Mr Kerry at the event. “He said it couldn’t happen. We did it.”
Boasts of ‘swagger’
Working to shape his legacy, Mr Pompeo has boasted of taking Sudan off the list of state sponsors of terrorism and of his trips to nations his predecessors hadn’t visited, such as Suriname.
He’s also revived his theme of bringing “swagger” back to the State Department.
The top US diplomat has projected an air of calm amid concerns about the administration’s ability to handle a crisis in the chaos that has descended upon the White House after Jan 6.
On Tuesday, he cancelled a trip to Belgium and scrapped all other overseas travel by senior State officials, in part to stick close to home in case such a national-security crisis erupts.
Mr Pompeo, who initially served as Mr Trump’s CIA director, is in a unique position: Aside from Mr Trump’s family, there’s no senior administration official who has managed to stay inside the president’s inner circle for so long.
Mr Pompeo acknowledged in a recent interview that approach was central to the way he’s worked.
Citing advice from former Secretary of State James Baker, he said a close relationship with the president “is absolutely central to your success.”
“When you travel around the world and meet with leaders or when you speak to them on the phone, they need to know that you have a relationship with the president that means that you are in fact speaking on behalf of him,” Mr Pompeo said on The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations on Bloomberg Television.
While there are risks, Mr Pompeo may also be making the calculation that he can continue to treat his work with Mr Trump as an asset, not a liability.
“Even if someone says, ‘Yeah you were complicit,’” said Liz Mair, a Republican strategist and president of Mair Strategies, it’s easy to counter that “when you’re called to serve, especially by someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, you’re negligent if you don’t do that. Then you pivot to talking about all the conservative victories and the stuff people like hearing about.”
Mr Pompeo even gave a marching order on Wednesday to his followers as he’s on the verge of losing his high office – and his official Twitter handle.
“One week from today, I will be stepping aside as Secretary of State and this account will be archived,” Mr Pompeo wrote in another tweet on Wednesday. “Be sure to follow me.”