The Week Ahead
February 5, 2023
One thing I’d bet we can all agree on heading into the new week is that no one, and especially not former Trump cabinet secretaries who likely have future political ambitions, should be able to get away with whitewashing what happened on January 6, calling it a “peaceful transition” of power. But that’s exactly what happened during an interview Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, did with Sky News last week as part of his effort to sell his new book.
Here’s how Pompeo rationalized the insurrection: “We delivered a peaceful transition on January 6, 2021, exactly as our Constitution requires.”
Pompeo has acknowledged that he is contemplating a presidential run, saying he and his wife, Susan, are “thinking, praying, trying to figure out if this is the next place to go serve.”
Pompeo, who questioned Biden’s 2020 victory following the election, is not part of any “we” that managed to deliver a transfer of power following a most decidedly not-peaceful day. It was not a peaceful transfer of power in keeping with American traditions set by George Washington’s decision to step aside following his tenure in office. And Pompeo, who graduated first in his class at West Point and received his law degree from Harvard, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, is well aware of that. He is not, to put it mildly, Donald Trump. He is someone who knows better. So we should not just pass it off with a shrug when he paints Trump’s efforts to subvert the election as a successful exercise in democracy. It needs to be taken seriously for what it is—a deliberate attempt to rewrite the history of January 6, the Republican Party’s complicity in it, and Pompeo’s own personal role.
Although Pompeo views the day as a success, in what would seem to be a sharp contradiction, he approves of prosecuting the mob that overran the Capitol. In another interview last week, he said, “If you commit a crime—so if you broke into the Capitol, committed violence—you should be prosecuted.” It’s only Trump and his cohort’s effort to interfere with the certification of the Electoral College result that leaves him, apparently, untroubled and even congratulatory.
Pompeo’s comments last week received only the briefest amount of reporting. Instead of letting the outrageous remarks pass, Democrats should be sounding the alarm. Of course, that’s difficult to do with a public that is insurrection-weary after two years. But public weariness and a failure of watchfulness is a recipe for letting democracy slip away. The question here cannot be whether Pompeo (and others who will inevitably adopt his tactic) get called out. The question is, how does it happen? What’s an effective way for Democrats and people who love our country alike to make sure this kind of dangerous historical fiction gets the serious attention and condemnation it deserves? Because if it doesn’t get nipped in the bud, it will be the Republican narrative come 2024.
Isn’t that the ultimate goal for the party of alternative facts? You can’t celebrate a violent insurrection and an effort to keep the candidate who lost the election in power, so label it a triumph. That effort is now underway.
It’s worth recalling that Mike Pompeo spent six years in the House of Representatives, representing Kansas’s 4th District, before leaving to serve first as Trump’s director of the CIA and then as his secretary of state. His service was marred by repeated allegations of misconduct:
Pompeo fired an inspector general at the State Department who was investigating whether his wife’s travel, at government expense, violated ethics rules. The successor IG found there was no ethical violation, even though there were paperwork and approvals for only two of Susan Pompeo’s eight trips. Pompeo’s decision to fire the IG, telling Trump he had “lost confidence” in him, came after the IG had opened several investigations into Pompeo’s conduct.
The fired IG was also investigating allegations that Pompeo made a staffer walk his dog, pick up his dry cleaning, and make dinner reservations for Pompeo and his wife, as well as take care of other personal errands, all at taxpayer expense. That investigation concluded that there were more than 100 instances when the secretary or his wife ordered staff to carry out errands or conduct their private business, down to preparing personal Christmas cards.
Pompeo and his wife hosted exclusive and unpublicized “Madison Dinners” at a cost estimated at almost $65,000 to taxpayers in the historic Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the State Department. The dinners were thinly veiled exercises in courting high-ranking members in all three branches of government who could be helpful to Pompeo in anticipated future political runs. The dinners also included foreign diplomats, business leaders, and influential members of conservative media, many of them with little or no connection to the State Department’s mission. Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch were both reportedly on the list of invitees.
There was more grift. Pompeo and his wife used government resources for personal and political gain, including frequent flights to Kansas amid reports he was considering a run for office there, “quiet meetings with deep-pocketed Republican donors during official government travel,” and the use of a Northern Virginia home that was supposed to be reserved for military officers and that saved the Pompeos tens of thousands of dollars on rent, utilities, lawn maintenance, pest control, and interior painting.
The Office of Special Counsel concluded that Pompeo violated the Hatch Act when he addressed the Republican National Convention in 2020 from Jerusalem. He was never prosecuted.
Pompeo adopted the term “swagger” to describe the department’s style under his leadership. The Editorial Board at the Washington Post concluded in April 2021 that swagger really meant “advancing Mr. Pompeo’s personal political career.” They noted that “as he considered a run for senator in Kansas, as well as a possible 2024 presidential candidacy, Mr. Pompeo used the secretary of state’s platform and resources to nurture his political profile and connections.” When he left the State Department, the New York Times reported that Pompeo had been “tagged by a number of officials and analysts with the dubious distinction of the worst secretary of state in American history.”
Only in a country with a short attention span could there be any prospect of Pompeo conducting a successful reputation rehabilitation tour. He should be questioned by anyone who interviews him about the book over all of his past misconduct. Any other President would have banished an official who repeatedly abused the public’s trust and resources, instead of promoting him. Perhaps it would be only fitting if Pompeo played a role in dimming Trump’s aspirations to return to the presidency, but there’s something more important at work here.
The insurrection happened. Trump Republicans tried to destroy our democracy. They should never be permitted to return to power; they should not have been there in the first place. Yet here we have Secretary Pompeo touting the glorious success on January 6, 2021. And there has been barely a whisper of disapproval, let alone an outpouring of outrage. What can we do? It’s hard to say. But we can spread the word. We can refuse to forget so easily. We can refuse to let this be last week’s news and ensure that we use social media and personal conversations to underline that Pompeo’s lie—that January 6 was a successful, peaceful transition of power—will not be tolerated by decent people in this country.
We’re in this together,
"the worst secretary of state in American history," is indicative of too many of these petty little dilettantes, dabblers in governance around and including tfg. Too lazy to do the work and expect all the perks and glory of power and none of the responsibility. This seems to be the legacy of the Koch brothers, Federalist Society, among other conservative leaders. Computers are smoking holding their history!!!
The January 6, 2021 Insurrection caused the counting of the votes to be delayed to January 7th. So, no, there was no peaceful transition of power on January 6, 2021. It was subverted by Trump, Pompeo and their Party.