Bolton book puts spotlight on Pompeo-Trump relationship

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo says he and Pentagon warned Russia against bounties on US troops in Afghanistan US blocking private charter flights to Cuba China's Confucius Institute designated as a foreign mission of Beijing MORE’s relationship with President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Michael Cohen book accuses Trump of corruption, fraud Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida congressional primary MORE is in the spotlight following passages from John BoltonJohn BoltonThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Speculation over Biden's running mate announcement Ex-Trump adviser, impeachment witness Fiona Hill gets book deal Hannity's first book in 10 years debuts at No. 1 on Amazon MORE’s new book.

The former national security adviser paints Pompeo as someone who instinctively pushed back against some of the president’s policies and privately criticized Trump.

For now, Pompeo appears to have emerged largely unscathed, with the White House dismissing Bolton’s memoir as nothing more than a collection of lies meant to boost sales of the book, titled “The Room Where It Happened.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Shortly after excerpts of the book were published, Trump said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that he has a “very good relationship with Pompeo.”

One of the more sensational excerpts in the book recounts an episode in which Pompeo supposedly showed Bolton a notepad where he had written “he is so full of shit,” referring to Trump.

The president said Wednesday that he doubts the secretary wrote those words.

“Does he have the note? Let me see the note,” Trump said in the interview.

Pompeo later gave his own rebuttal to Bolton’s book, issuing a statement titled “I Was In The Room Too.” He said Bolton is “spreading a number of lies, fully-spun half-truths, and outright falsehoods.”

When asked if Bolton’s book has impacted Pompeo’s standing with the president, a senior White House official said: “Pompeo’s response to Bolton’s claim was clear and unambiguous. Additionally there is genuine belief within the White House that Bolton should get a Ph.D. for creative writing. These two factors allow Pompeo to enjoy the continued confidence and support of the president.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Bolton describes Pompeo’s management style as “conflict avoidance,” and the scenarios in the book paint a picture of a secretary delicately navigating the whims of the president, foreign policy and what he thinks is right.

Pompeo was against Trump meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnNew Bob Woodward book will include details of 25 personal letters between Trump and Kim Jong Un Overnight Defense: Trump pushed to restore full National Guard funding | Watchdog faults Pompeo on civilian risk of Saudi arms sales Trump's missed opportunities: The top three blunders of the past year MORE at the Demilitarized Zone in June last year, with Bolton relaying the episode as Pompeo wanting to be excluded.

“I have no value added on this. This is complete chaos,” Bolton quoted Pompeo as saying.

But the secretary later went along with Trump’s wishes.

“The next thing I knew, Trump had signed the ‘formal’ letter of invitation that the North Koreans had asked for. Pompeo had succumbed yet again,” Bolton wrote.

Bolton also wrote that Pompeo had considered resigning in December 2018, following a string of events: Trump agreeing with Chinese President Xi Jinping on his building of concentration camps for Uighur Muslims, fears that the president would roll back restrictions on Chinese telecommunication firms and concerns over Trump’s legal issues.

“Somewhere nearby was resignation territory, I said, which Pompeo agreed with. This didn’t yet require drafting a resignation letter, but warning lights were flashing,” Bolton wrote.

Pompeo has long received praise from the president. The former House member first served as Trump’s CIA director before becoming Trump’s second secretary of State, after gaining notoriety as a GOP congressman for his relentless interrogation of then-Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal Gloria Steinem: Selection of Kamala Harris recognizes that 'black women ... are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party' MORE during the Benghazi investigation led by House Republicans.

That exchange apparently stuck with the president, described in one episode of Bolton’s book as Trump pushing for Pompeo to find a way for the U.S. to leave Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Call Pompeo and tell him to remember Benghazi,” Bolton quoted the president’s instructions.

Pompeo also played a key role in actions surrounding the impeachment process led by House Democrats last year, when the secretary came under fire for being among the department heads who sought to block testimony of top State Department officials in the probe into Trump’s contacts with Ukraine. He also faced criticism that he failed to protect diplomats and other career officials under his leadership.

In one chapter of the book, Bolton describes Pompeo’s role responding to the president wanting to fire U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchMarie Yovanovitch on Vindman retirement: He 'deserved better than this. Our country deserved better than this' Cheney clashes with Trump Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November MORE last year.

ADVERTISEMENT

The account tracks with testimony from the House impeachment inquiry, that the secretary sought to prevent and then delay the ambassador’s ousting. Bolton wrote that Pompeo dismissed out of hand accusations raised by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiFeehery: Weak mayors destroy America's great cities Coronavirus concerns emerge around debates Giuliani says Black Lives Matter is 'domestic terrorist' group MORE.

Bolton wrote that Pompeo told him Yovanovitch “was trying to reduce corruption in Ukraine and may well have been going after some of Giuliani’s clients.”

Nevertheless, Pompeo hastened Yovanovitch’s exit to late November or early December, almost six months ahead of her expected departure.

“Pompeo wanted to leave it at that,” Bolton wrote, but Trump’s intense focus on Yovanovitch led him to recall her on April 23. “Pompeo closed by saying that he would order her back to Washington that night.”

The book and its characterization of Pompeo come at a time when he is already under scrutiny for recommending Trump fire State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, who was investigating the secretary’s authorization of a multibillion-dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia as well as whether he misused a political appointee to perform personal tasks for himself and his wife, such as picking up dry cleaning and walking their dog.

Pompeo has pushed back on allegations he ousted Linick to interfere with such investigations.

House Democrats are investigating the circumstances surrounding Linick’s ousting, and are expected to question next week one of the secretary’s closest aides, Under Secretary for Management Brian Bulatao, who had knowledge of the ongoing investigations.

The testimony and subsequent investigation are likely to pose another test for Pompeo and his place within the administration, but the White House reaction to Bolton’s book suggest his ties to Trump remain as strong as they were before.