Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), President-Elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the Central Intelligence Agency, promises to bring a commitment to transparency and accountability back to the CIA come January. Americans can feel confident in that promise by looking at the Kansas congressman’s track record as a member of the House inquiry into Benghazi.
Pompeo emerged as one of the most relentless voices calling for transparency and justice regarding the Sept. 11, 2012, Benghazi attack. He played a key role in the House Select Committee on Benghazi’s investigation and subsequent report analyzing the events leading up to and following the consulate attacks.
“He is an outstanding pick and President-Elect Trump selecting him as our next CIA director indicates this administration’s commitment to prioritizing our national security.”
“Over the last six years, Mike has been a fierce and vocal leader in Congress,” Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, told LifeZette in a statement. “As a member of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, he provided invaluable insight into how the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) works and its interconnection with other U.S. agencies as they seek to keep Americans safe around the world.”
“Our committee relied upon him as we sought to obtain information from the CIA and other intelligence organizations that related to the attacks in Benghazi,” Gowdy added. “He is an outstanding pick and President-Elect Trump selecting him as our next CIA director indicates this administration’s commitment to prioritizing our national security.”
Pompeo emerged early as a key player on the committee that sought to analyze the government’s actions surrounding the terror attacks against two U.S. government facilities in Libya that claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
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“We expect our government to make every effort to save the lives of Americans who serve in harm’s way. That did not happen in Benghazi,” Pompeo said in a statement following the committee’s release of its report in June. “Politics were put ahead of the lives of Americans, and while the administration had made excuses and blamed the challenges posed by time and distance, the truth is that they did not try.”
The committee’s Benghazi investigation, which focused in part on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s policy decisions in response to unrest from the Islamic militant group Ansar al-Sharia, proved to be a significant blight on her failed presidential bid in 2016 against Trump.
“Before, during, and after the attacks of Sept, 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put politics ahead of people, pulling out all the stops to cover up the fact that she didn’t act when American lives were on the line — focusing more on spin and media narrative before an election than securing American lives under attack by terrorists,” Pompeo said in an additional joint report with fellow committee member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) on June 28, the same day the committee released its formal report.
The Pompeo-Jordan statement went a step further than the committee’s report in concluding that Clinton “did not make every effort to ensure the Americans being sent to Libya were safe” and that their “requests for help fell on deaf ears” when the threats of violence against them increased and they requested additional security.
“The State Department and Secretary Clinton learned quickly that this was a terrorist attack, but rather than be square with the American people and risk losing an election, they opted to blame a video-inspired protest that never happened,” the congressmen said, referring to an anti-Muslim video titled “The Innocence of Muslims” released before the attacks.
Although U.S. officials initially blamed a video-inspired protest for the attacks at the behest of the CIA, further investigation showed the attacks were premeditated.
“The numerous failures of Secretary Clinton surrounding this attack lead to very uncomfortable questions about her ability to lead when her people needed her, her willingness to allow election-year messaging to drive decision-making during a crisis, and why she didn’t tell the truth to the American people,” the statement continued.
Pompeo came under intense scrutiny and criticism for his especially hard-line emphasis on Clinton’s Benghazi actions – an emphasis that went beyond the committee’s formal report. With critics on the Left accusing him and his colleagues of vindictive partisanship, Pompeo stood his ground and fought for government accountability and justice for the four Americans’ deaths.
“We have, for the entire time, been focused on solving the riddle of how we had an ambassador murdered, the first one since 1979. And it would be investigatory malpractice if we didn’t interview former Secretary Clinton. She was the senior diplomat who Christopher Stevens worked for,” Pompeo told NPR in October 2015.
The committee, which Pompeo said faced criticism from the Right for “not doing enough” and from the Left for “doing too much,” jumped deeply into the fray regarding Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state. Saying that the committee needed to investigate Clinton’s “home brew server” while looking for Benghazi-related information, Pompeo stood firm in his commitment to “complete the record” of all that transpired on Sept. 11, 2012.
“We have to get these facts. We had four Americans killed. No one’s been held accountable, even to this day. And our committee is laser-focused on making sure we accomplish that mission,” Pompeo told NPR, adding, “I think you’ll see that we are focused on what happened in Libya, what happened in Benghazi, why the United States government decided to hold no one accountable and then how it was the case that the State Department came out after the event and told the American people a tale that just turned out not to have been true.”
Pompeo also demonstrated his keen awareness of the mainstream media’s protection of Clinton and the dangers to her presidential bid when he added that he hoped “the media will stay interested” in what the Committee would find and report fairly on those findings.
“We’ve got families of four dead Americans and the American people that deserve these answers,” Pompeo told NPR. “And I think the American people will see that our committee did a professional, important task on behalf of the United States.”
These qualities of firmness, commitment, and accountability that Pompeo demonstrated during his time serving on the House Select Committee on Benghazi are some of the most striking qualities that drew Trump to nominate him to head up the CIA — the very agency that encouraged U.S. officials to initially pin the attacks on video-inspired protests — on Friday. Pompeo’s record as a staunch conservative voice on national security issues promises to help ease Congress’ recently strained relationship with the CIA.
“He has served our country with honor and spent his life fighting for the security of our citizens,” Trump said in a statement Friday. “He will be a brilliant and unrelenting leader for our intelligence community to ensure the safety of Americans and our allies.”
Pompeo is well-liked and respected among his peers, and even Rep. Adam Schiff — the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee — praised the “very bright and hardworking” Pompeo as a good choice for Trump.
“While we have had our share of strong differences — principally on the politicization of the tragedy in Benghazi — I know that he is someone who is willing to listen and engage, both key qualities in a CIA director,” Schiff said in a statement Friday.
And Pompeo is more than willing to rise to the challenge.
“This was a difficult decision. I have genuinely loved representing the people of Kansas in Congress — working to make our community stronger and more prosperous,” Pompeo said in a statement Friday. “But ultimately the opportunity to lead the world’s finest intelligence warriors, who labor tirelessly to keep this nation and Kansas safe, is a call to service I cannot ignore.”
“I want to thank the people of the 4th District who entrusted me over the past six years to be their voice in our nation’s capital. I will continue to represent you in this new post with the highest level of honesty, integrity, and vision.”