Former CIA director named Secretary of State in latest White House shake-up

Former CIA director named Secretary of State in latest White House shake-up
Photo credit: Getty.

In the latest high profile exit from the White House, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been fired and former CIA director Mike Pompeo will take his place.

The role itself is loosely equivalent to our own Minister of Foreign Affairs, and is one of the most influential positions in American politics.

A three-term Republican congressman, Mr Pompeo is known for his hardline stance over Iran, and for being one of Hillary Clinton's most vocal critics during the Benghazi incident. He is also known for his outspoken support for both the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and the use of torture as a legitimate means of interrogation.

When asked about the use of torture by the Bush administration, Mr Pompeo said:

"These men and women are not torturers, they are patriots."

Mr Pompeo has expressed support for dismantling the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran, meaning his appointment may have significant implications for the Middle East.

President Trump's pick for new CIA Director, Gina Haspel, has caused additional controversy, as she has been linked to the torturing of two suspects and destruction of video evidence regarding their interrogation in Thailand.

Mr Pompeo has also faced criticism for downplaying the role Russia played in the US presidential election, even going so far as to misrepresent the views of the intelligence community.

Last year while at security conference Mr Pomepo referenced an extensive report by the CIA and affiliated agencies, saying: "The intelligence community’s assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election." 

The report he was talking about made no such conclusion, and the intelligence officials involved explicitly stated: "We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency."

The report also states that the intelligence community believes Vladimir Putin has developed a "clear preference for President-elect Donald Trump".

Mr Pompeo's downplaying of the ongoing Russia scandal has caused concern that he may have allowed his positive personal view of Mr Trump to cloud his judgement as an intelligence officer.

The President himself has showered Mr Pompeo with praise, telling White House reporters:  

"I've worked with Mike Pompeo now for quite some time. We're always on the same wavelength. The relationship has been very good. That’s what I need as Secretary of State."

The appointment places Mr Pompeo fourth in the line of succession to the Presidency, behind the Vice-President, Speaker of the House and President pro-tempore of the Senate.

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