- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2018

A political action group run by former Obama administration officials and insiders from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign launched a series of digital ads slamming CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s nomination to be secretary of state Thursday, adding fuel to an increasingly fiery fight over the nomination on Capitol Hill.

National Security Action, a partisan think tank known for slamming President Trump, said it will use social media to promote three highly crafted YouTube videos with the goal of “urging key Senators to reject” Mr. Pompeo’s nomination, claiming he would be “dangerous” if confirmed as America’s top diplomat.

The videos began circulating hours before Mr. Trump ramped up his own public support for Mr. Pompeo.

Mike Pompeo is outstanding. First in his class at West Point. A top student at Harvard Law School. A success at whatever he has done. We need the Senate to approve Mike ASAP. He will be a great Secretary of State!” the president tweeted.

It remains to be seen how close an impending Senate confirmation vote might be for Mr. Pompeo, whom Mr. Trump nominated last month to head the State Department after firing the administration’s first secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson.

With uncertainty lingering over where several senators stand, National Security Action hopes to influence the vote. One of its videos, titled “#StopPompeo — Islamophobia,” opens with dark suspense sound effects under a photo of Mr. Pompeo, as the following text appears: “Mike Pompeo has a track record of association with hate groups and bigoted comments against Muslims.

“Don’t let Republicans empower another extremist to represent America,” the text continues.

The other two videos feature the same sobering sound effects and assert that “Trump is assembling a war cabinet” and that “Mike Pompeo is a climate denier in the pocket of the Koch brothers,” a reference to predominantly Republican political financiers and fossil fuel energy magnates Charles and David Koch.

The ads offer no examples of statements Mr. Pompeo has given or actions he has taken to back up the harsh assertions about his character and record.

A National Security Action spokesperson told The Washington Times via email Thursday that while the ads are on YouTube, the group is engaged in a targeted push to spread them to social media users in Arizona, Nevada and Alaska — apparently in an effort to get the Republican senators from those states to vote against Mr. Pompeo’s confirmation.

The Senate voted 66-32 to confirm Mr. Pompeo as CIA director last year. But the former Republican congressman from Kansas is now up against unpredictable resistance in the secretary of state confirmation process.

Democratic opposition on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee could force Senate Republican leadership to take the unusual step of sending the nomination to the full Senate without a favorable recommendation.

Republicans have a narrow Senate majority, but outspoken libertarian Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has signaled he won’t support Mr. Pompeo’s confirmation on grounds that the nominee appears to stand for interventionist-style foreign policy that Mr. Paul opposes.

Mr. Trump has personally called on Mr. Paul to change his mind about Mr. Pompeo. He told reporters Wednesday that “Rand Paul is a very special guy” and that the senator has “never let me down, and I don’t think he’ll let us down again.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, added to the pressure on Mr. Paul Thursday afternoon. “As to Rand Paul, you say you support the president. Here’s a really good chance to do something about it,” Mr. Graham told reporters. “If you want to avoid a war with North Korea, somebody needs to do something different. I can’t believe that Mr. Pompeo is not qualified by any definition. Now, if you’re looking for a libertarian, you’re not going to get one.”

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota became the first Democrat to publicly support Mr. Pompeo.

Ms. Heitkamp, who is facing a tough re-election fight, said in a statement Thursday that she met with Mr. Pompeo last month to discuss his nomination. She said he is “committed to empowering the diplomats at the State Department so they can do their jobs in advancing American interests.”

Ms. Heitkamp, North Dakota’s only Democratic statewide officeholder, is trying to fend off Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer in a critical race for control of the Senate.

Others have argued that Mr. Trump’s surprise decision to send Mr. Pompeo to North Korea for top-secret talks with Kim Jong-un this month makes it more difficult for Senate Democrats to oppose his nomination as secretary of state.

“This is a good example of how critical it is on the merits to confirm Mike Pompeo,” Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said Wednesday. “He’s already invested deeply in the upcoming summit between the president and Kim Jong-un.”

National Security Action, meanwhile, promoted its anti-Pompeo YouTube adds with a press release.

The group is headed by former Obama administration Deputy National Security Adviser and strategic communications chief Ben Rhodes, and Jake Sullivan, who was head of policy and planning at the State Department under President Obama and later served as chief foreign policy advisers to Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Among other prominent members of the group are former Rep. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, and Tony Blinken, a deputy secretary of state and a deputy national security adviser in the Obama administration.

The YouTube ads “highlight some of the traits that would make Pompeo an especially dangerous Secretary of State. Specifically, they focus on his predisposition for the use of force over diplomacy in key theaters as well as his long record of climate change denial and bigotry against minorities, including Muslim Americans, and other marginalized groups,” National Security Action said in a statement.

The statement quoted Dan Herman, the group’s head of advocacy and campaigns, as saying that if Mr. Pompeo is confirmed, he would fit “into the ‘War Cabinet’ Trump is assembling with John Bolton.”

Mr. Pompeo is a former U.S. Army officer who graduated first in his class from West Point and received a degree from Harvard Law School. He rode the Republican tea party wave into Congress in 2011.

Despite relatively broad support he has received from senators as CIA director, many on the left criticize comments he has made about climate change and Muslims.

During a confirmation hearing last year, Mr. Pompeo said he believed it was “ignorant, dangerous and absolutely unbelievable” that some U.S. officials have argued that climate change is a top national security threat.

An online video shows Mr. Pompeo telling a church group in 2014 that the jihadi “threat to America is from people who deeply believe that Islam is the way and the light and the only answer.”

“As we think about what U.S. policy needs to be and how we will begin to combat this, we need to recognize that these folks believe that it is religiously driven for them to wipe Christians from the face of the earth,” Mr. Pompeo said at the time. “They may be wrong. There’s some debate about that. The Koran actually says they may be wholly misguided, and I will tell you it is absolutely a minority within the Muslim faith.

“But these folks are serious, and they abhor Christians and will continue to press against us until we make sure that we pray and stand and fight and make sure that we know that Jesus Christ as our savior is truly the only solution for our world,” Mr. Pompeo said.

Feelings about the secretary of state nominee are mixed at the State Department. Behind the scenes, however, several diplomats have told The Times they are hopeful that Mr. Pompeo, who enjoys a closer rapport with Mr. Trump and is more comfortable in public forums and with the news media than the reserved Mr. Tillerson, will boost the department’s lagging interagency clout.

Dave Boyer contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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