The New Yorker:
By Susan B. Glasser
In the winter of 2016, Donald Trump was roaring through the primaries, and Mike Pompeo was determined to stop him. Pompeo, a little-known congressman from Wichita, helped persuade Marco Rubio to make a late stand in Kansas. Like many Republicans in Congress, Pompeo believed that Rubio had the national-security knowledge and the judgment to be President, and Trump did not. Urged on by Pompeo, Rubio’s team pulled money out of other states to gamble on winning the Kansas caucus. It was one of the few remaining contests in which Rubio still hoped to beat Trump, who, he said, was a “con artist” about to “take over the Republican Party.”
On March 5th, Trump and Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, arrived in Wichita for the caucus. Rubio left his closing argument to Pompeo, who told the crowd at the Century II arena, “I’m going to speak to you from the heart about what I believe is the best path forward for America.” An Army veteran who finished first in his class at West Point, Pompeo cited Trump’s boast that if he ordered a soldier to commit a war crime the soldier would “go do it.” As the audience booed, Pompeo warned that Trump—like Barack Obama—would be “an authoritarian President who ignored our Constitution.” American soldiers “don’t swear an allegiance to President Trump or any other President,” Pompeo declared. “They take an oath to defend our Constitution, as Kansans, as conservatives, as Republicans, as Americans. Marco Rubio will never demean our soldiers by saying that he will order them to do things that are inconsistent with our Constitution.” Listening backstage, Trump demanded to know the identity of the congressman trashing him. A few minutes later, Pompeo concluded, “It’s time to turn down the lights on the circus.”
Pompeo’s stinging rebuke of Trump got barely a mention in the local press, and Rubio finished third in Kansas. “We got smoked,” a former top Rubio campaign aide told me. Days later, Rubio’s campaign was over. In May, Trump secured the delegates needed for the nomination, and Pompeo reluctantly joined the rest of Kansas’s congressional delegation in endorsing him. Still, Pompeo had told the Topeka Capital-Journal, in April, that Trump was “not a conservative believer,” and, a few weeks later, he said, on CNN, “A lot of his policies don’t comport with my vision for how I represent Kansas.”
At that point, Pompeo had never met Trump. Like many Republicans who called Trump a “kook,” a “cancer,” and a threat to democracy before ultimately supporting him, Pompeo disagreed with much of Trump’s platform. He took issue in particular with Trump’s “America First” skepticism about the United States’ role in the world. Pompeo was a conservative internationalist who had been shaped by his Cold War-era military service, and he remained a believer in American power as the guarantor of global stability. Yet, after Trump won the Presidency, Pompeo sought a post in his Administration and did not hesitate to serve as his C.I.A. director. In 2018, after Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, by tweet, Pompeo happily replaced him as America’s top diplomat.
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