CAIR Pushes Effort to Block Pompeo Confirmation

By Patrick Goodenough | April 20, 2018 | 4:16am EDT
Vice President Mike Pence swears in Mike Pompeo as director of the CIA on January 23, 2017, while his wife, Susan Pompeo, looks on. (Screen capture: YouTube)

( – As the battle over CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s nomination as secretary of state reaches make-or-break, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on Friday plans a joint event with mostly other Muslim groups to urge the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to vote him down on Monday.

Taking part at the news conference at the National Press Club will be representatives from the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Islamic Circle of North America, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Muslims for Palestine and National Religious Campaign Against Torture Action Fund.

“CAIR is also calling on all those who value America's traditions of religious inclusion and respect for diversity to contact members of the U.S. Senate to oppose Pompeo’s confirmation,” said the group, which describes Pompeo as an “Islamophobe.”

CAIR, which calls itself as the nation’s biggest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, was thrilled when Democrats on the Senate panel grilled Pompeo last week over his views on Islam.

In an exchange that drew widespread attention – although not from CAIR – Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) also confronted Pompeo over his opposition to same-sex marriage.

The LGBT issue resonated with several Democrats on the committee, and in their subsequent announcements of their intention to vote against Pompeo it was mentioned among others by Sens. Ed Markey (Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Ben Cardin (Md.), and ranking member Bob Menendez (N.J.)

Other issues cited by Menendez included Pompeo’s statements on Muslims, and he said the nominee “did little to assuage my concerns about the administration’s deafening lack of strategic vision for any of our major global challenges.”

Menendez also complained that Pompeo, at a private meeting, had not disclosed his recent trip to North Korea for talks with Kim Jong-un. President Trump confirmed on Wednesday that Pompeo had made the clandestine trip, after the news was leaked to the Washington Post.

Pompeo’s visit to the reclusive communist nation, in preparation for a planned summit between Kim and Trump, has generally won praise – including from some Democratic senators – but Menendez was not among them.

“Even in my private conversations with him, he didn’t tell me about his visit to North Korea,” Menendez said during an event Wednesday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Now I don’t expect diplomacy to be negotiated out in the open but I do expect for someone who is the nominee to be secretary of state, when he speaks with committee leadership and is asked specific questions about North Korea, to share some insights about such a visit.”

Tight race

With nine of the committee’s ten Democrats having announced their intention to oppose confirmation – Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware has yet to declare – Pompeo’s fate may hang in the hands of Sen. Rand Paul, the libertarian Kentucky Republican.

Paul met with Pompeo this week, at Trump’s request, but has given no indication of a change of mind.

During the April 12 nomination hearing, Paul and Pompeo differed over whether the president has the authority to authorize military strikes in Syria. A day later, the U.S. joined France and Britain in firing missiles at three installations linked to the Assad regime’s chemical weapons program.

In the event Pompeo is short of the needed votes on Monday, options could include a decision to send the nomination to the Senate floor without a favorable vote from the committee; a vote against sending it to the floor at all, thus killing the nomination; or a filibuster by Pompeo opponents to prevent the GOP from bypassing the committee and bringing the nomination to the floor.

With the GOP controlling 51 of the Senate’s 100 seats, a floor vote could see Pompeo confirmed by a narrow margin, after Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota became the first Democrat to announce her support.

In recent times, secretary of state nominees have typically been confirmed by large margins, although Rex Tillerson was an exception. In a 56-43 vote in February last year, Democratic Sens. Heitkamp, Joe Manchin (W.V.) and Mark Warner (Va.), and independent Angus King (Me.) were the only non-Republicans to support him.

Previous nominees in recent administrations were confirmed easily: John Kerry in a 94-3 vote, Hillary Clinton 94-2, Condoleezza Rice 85-13, Madeleine Albright 99-0, while Colin Powell and Warren Christopher were confirmed by unanimous voice vote.

Citing some of those votes, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted Thursday, “What does history tell us? Members of both parties have long believed that U.S. national security is too important to play politics with Secretary of State nominees. #ConfirmPompeo.”

Conservative organizations and individuals advocating Pompeo’s confirmation include former deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, columnist J. Kenneth Blackwell, Forbes editor-in-chief Steve Forbes, Family Research Council, Susan B. Anthony List and Tea Party Patriots.

A range of liberal groups have come out in opposition, including, Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, CODEPINK, the Sierra Club and the National Iranian American Council, which advocates engagement with the regime in Tehran.

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