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Opening Remarks by Senator Menendez at Pompeo Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following statement at today’s hearing on the nomination of Mike Pompeo to be Secretary of State. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Mr. Director, congratulations on your nomination and welcome to your second Senate confirmation hearing.

“This Committee considers your nomination after a nearly a year and a half of reckoning with President Trump’s erratic approach to foreign policy, which has left our allies confused and our adversaries emboldened.  An approach driven by impulse, not strategy. President Trump’s ‘America First’ polices have left America isolated and alone in the midst of unprecedented challenges from an aggressive Russia who seeks to undermine the international order we helped create after World War Two that has brought peace and stability to the world for nearly three quarters of a century… a destabilized Middle East… the ongoing threat of terrorism… an emboldened China asserting itself in the South China Sea militarily and economically in the Western Hemisphere… Assad - a butcher who has used chemical weapons against innocent civilians… Maduro tightening his grip on his regime and starving Venezuelans in one of the most oil rich countries in the world. 

“Meanwhile, President Trump has abandoned the very democratic values and ideals that have shaped America’s role as a beacon to our friends and as a bulwark against a world in crisis. I was pleased to hear you say earlier this week that you plan to support the career public servants at the State Department. The problem is we have an emaciated State Department under this Administration.

“Let me be clear, Members of this Committee expect every Secretary of State to champion the department.  We expect you to advocate for robust diplomacy as the first line of defense against sending our sons and daughters into war. To do that, we need a strong diplomatic corps, and an AID that complements and enhances our foreign policy.

“As CIA director your job was to conduct covert operations and collect, evaluate and provide intelligence to policy makers, including the President.  As Secretary of State, you will not be providing intelligence for other people to use to make policy; you will be the person executing the foreign policy of the United States of America. 

“Many countries in the world already think the State Department is an extension of the CIA, so how you conduct yourself moving forward will be critical to our diplomacy.  As the Senate considers your nomination to be the President’s top foreign policy advisor, we must ask:

“Will you enable President Trump’s worst instincts?  

“Will you advocate for long term strategies to protect US national security and interests, or will you be lurching from crisis to crisis as we have been under this Administration?

“Will you advocate for robust diplomacy or will you take America into unnecessary and costly wars?

“Will you stand up to President Trump and say ‘no, you are wrong in that view’? Or will you be a yes man.

“Americans are scared that this President – the commander in chaos – will lead them into war. This is not a time for taunts and tweets.   

“On Russia, the intelligence community and our military leaders have repeatedly stated that Russia poses ongoing threats to United States’ national security and to our allies. Yet, President Trump cannot bring himself to even acknowledge the Russian threat. He says that a court-granted search warrant is an attack on our country, but cannot call out Russian cyberattacks on our democracy.  Will you push the President to put together a real strategy to counter Russian aggression? Will you push the President to implement the mandatory sanctions that Congress overwhelmingly passed that he has failed to implement?

“North Korea poses a real and nuclear threat to the United States, our citizens, and our allies. The American people are deeply worried by an erratic President who uses schoolboy taunts when talking about nuclear war. A meeting is not a strategy. Preventing nuclear war requires thoughtful diplomacy, preparation, and clear objectives. Will you enable the voices around the President seeking to go to war?  Or will you press for an empowered diplomatic path to protect the safety of all Americans?  What, Mr. Director, what is your actual plan to roll back North Korea nuclear weapons and missile programs

“Turning to Iran. Everyone knows I voted against the Iran nuclear deal. But, I also share the assessment of your counterparts across national security agencies that it does not serve the United States’ national security interests to unilaterally withdraw from the deal, absent a strategy for what will replace it and how to get our allies to join us in countering Iran’s malign activity outside of the nuclear program and deal with the sunset issues within the nuclear portfolio.  Once again, this President is hurtling towards a nuclear crisis.  He is creating unnecessary rifts with the very allies we need to confront Iran.  So I ask again Mr. Director, what is your real plan?  Will you be a voice of reason or will you support the President’s worst instincts?

“If confirmed as the Secretary of State, you will no longer be operating in the shadows of American foreign policy. You will be the face and voice of the United States, the representative not just of a bombastic President but of the American people.  Will you champion our values?  When the President embraces dictators who quash the free press or suggest doing away with elections, will you stay silent? 

“When the President and those closest to him balk at the very idea of diplomacy, and instead advocate unnecessary wars that will cost the blood of our children and the treasure of our coffers, will you go along with them?  Or, as our nation’s top diplomat, will you champion diplomacy and offer actual plans? Will you stand up to President Trump and advise him differently when he is wrong? Or will you be a yes man?

“So, Mr. Director, I look forward to hearing your testimony and the answers to my questions.”