April 19, 2018

Corker: “We’re Much Better Off as a Nation Having Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State”

“There could be no one, no one here more qualified, more knowledgeable to step in immediately and deal with the kinds of issues that we have to deal with around the world.”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor in support of Mike Pompeo’s nomination to serve as Secretary of State. The committee is scheduled to vote on the nomination on Monday, April 23.

“Mr. President, thank you for acknowledging me and letting me speak today on behalf of our nominee to be Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

“I did not know Mike Pompeo well. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure I ever met him until he was nominated. 

“And I just want to say to people in this body, I don’t think anybody would view me as an apologist in any way for the administration.

“I view Mike Pompeo as a highly qualified nominee. I spent a lot of time with him privately on the phone. He did, I thought, an excellent job in his hearing.

“And we've had a tradition here of confirming people to important positions.

“Just to give a little history, John Kerry was confirmed as Secretary of State, Republicans and Democrats, 94-3. Obviously John Kerry, my friend, no doubt had been involved in partisan activities. He had run for president. Someone, no doubt, who, I’m sure, had said things that people did not agree with.

“Secretary Clinton was confirmed as Secretary of State by a vote of 94-2. No doubt exactly the same case; I'm sure said things that many Republicans, when she was a political person as a United States senator or running for president, that people disagreed with.

“Condoleezza Rice was confirmed as Secretary of State by a vote of 85-13, and Colin Powell was unanimously confirmed as Secretary of State. So, we’ve had a history here of the last secretaries of state to be overwhelmingly confirmed.

“I realize we’re in an atmosphere now where that is just not going to be the case. I realize my Democratic friends in many cases feel like that in supporting Pompeo, it's a proxy for support of the Trump administration policies, which many of them abhor. I understand that.

“I just want to say there will be a few Democrats that I believe will support him, and I want to say to people in this room, our president has a very entrepreneurial tendencies. He talks to people on the phone at night late. He comes in in the mornings sometimes with differing points of view than he had the day before.

“We had evidence of that just recently in Syria where one day we were going to leave Syria, the next day General Mattis and others intervened, and thankfully we’re going to stay there and complete the work against ISIS.

“I would just argue to people here that to have someone like Mike Pompeo, who has served the nation so well… This is a person, by the way, who graduated first in his class in the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1986. He served as a cavalry officer patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall. He also served with the Second Squadron, Seventh Calvary in the U.S. Army’s Fourth Infantry Division. After leaving active duty, Mr. Pompeo graduated from Harvard Law School having been editor of the Harvard Law Review.

“Mr. President, sometimes we meet people in life that are just sharper than we are. They have had an incredible academic background, and I cannot even imagine having accomplished some of the things that he has accomplished in life.

“What I have found, and I know you are the same, you have served, thankfully, we appreciate it, you served in our military, Mr. President.

“People who typically who have served in the military have more respect for diplomacy than those who have not because they understand that their diplomatic efforts, if successful, is the thing that keeps our men and women out of harm’s way. They know that. Pompeo's committed to that. He saw, by the way, he was there at the Iron Curtain and understood what diplomacy did to free people and to keep conflict from occurring. And I know that he's highly committed to that.

“We’ve had some cultural issues at the State Department. There's no question. I think everyone understands that. We had a former Secretary of State, someone who I had a good relationship with, you know, no doubt there were some things that were left undone at the State Department, and we've got a lot of positions that are unfilled. And all I can say is that I know that our nominee is highly committed to filling those positions.

“We have some cultural issues there as a result. We do. There’s no question. We know that. We acknowledge that.

“Mike Pompeo, as head of the C.I.A., every month sits down with C.I.A. employees in a casual setting where they call him Mike and they talk with him about what's going on. He's a person who knows how to build culture. He has done so at the C.I.A. He understands the importance of the professionals who have committed their lives, just like the foreign service officers at the State Department, to the C.I.A.

“So, we have someone who I know is going to build culture. We have someone who I know is committed to diplomacy. And let’s just talk about where we are in the world today.

“We have crises all over the world today. We have issues with North Korea, Syria, with Russia, concerns about some of the things China’s doing, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq. Who in the world could possibly know more currently about where we are than our director of the C.I.A.? I can't imagine there’s a person in Washington that has more current knowledge about the threats, the people involved in those threats, the people that we can use to help us deal with those threats than the director of the C.I.A. There could be no one, no one here more qualified, more knowledgeable to step in immediately and deal with the kinds of issues that we have to deal with around the world.

“Look in North Korea, just recently, he was the person…  We know that the back channels to North Korea have always been through intelligence. We understand that. He was exactly the right person to be there to talk and do the precursor work that needs to be done, many others need to be involved, the Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Defense, many other people, obviously. But Director Pompeo was exactly the right person to go and demonstrated his ability to be dealt with with respect.

“So, again, I will be leaving this body in eight and a half months. It has been the greatest privilege of my life to serve here, as I said to my Republican colleagues yesterday at lunch. I actually think the talent, the caliber of people here in the United States Senate has risen since I have been here.

“I think we have the best group of senators today serving in the Senate that we’ve had since I have been here. I see a crop of people running for these seats, and I think it might even improve next time. But it pains me to know that my friends know on the other side of the aisle that this is a qualified person. This is a person that’s demonstrated excellence in his life, incredible excellence.

“He served his country. He's been in the private sector. He served in this body. He was a congressman. And now he has distinguished himself with his service as director of the C.I.A., by the way, in a position that I know many of my Democratic friends have lavished praise on him because of his transparency and honesty in dealing with them but also just the way that he has built an excellent culture there.

“So, I hope, Mr. President, that members on the other side, over time…  We’re going to have a vote on Monday night in the committee. I hope that we’re able to send him out of committee to the floor. And I hope that the members on the other side of the aisle that have not yet said how they are going to vote will think about the circumstances that we’re in today and feel like that they can support a highly qualified Secretary of State because they know that having someone like him giving advice to the president, leading diplomacy, making sure that the State Department, with the great professionals we have there, is given the ability to do what it does best by leveraging their efforts around the world.

“I hope that people will think about this and realize that we’re much better as a nation having Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State than not having him as Secretary of State and will vote aye on the floor.

“With that, Mr. President, I thank you, and I yield the floor.”