Trump checkmates Democrats in sending Pompeo to North Korea

Trump checkmates Democrats in sending Pompeo to North Korea
© Getty Images

Are Democrats willing to take the blame for North Korea deploying nuclear weapons that could hit the United States? That’s the question smart Democrats should be asking this week, after the stunning revelation that the White House sent CIA director and secretary of State designee Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoErdoğan got the best of Trump, experts warn Graham: I'm seeking to make Trump successful 'but not at all costs' Ex-Watergate prosecutor says evidence in impeachment inquiry 'clearly' points to Trump MORE to North Korea over Easter weekend to discuss terms for a summit between Kim Jong Un and President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi arrives in Jordan with bipartisan congressional delegation Trump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash CNN's Anderson Cooper mocks WH press secretary over Fox News interview MORE.

Consider that Pompeo’s nomination will live or die on the votes cast by Senate Democrats. Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe On The Money: Senate fails to override Trump veto over border emergency | Trump resort to host G-7 next year | Senators to push Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire | McConnell tees up funding votes Top Foreign Relations senators introduce Turkey sanctions bill MORE has already declared his opposition to Pompeo, while Arizona Republican Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCummings to lie in state at the Capitol Elizabeth Warren should concern Donald Trump 'bigly' Lawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show MORE has been missing in action for months as the result of his ongoing medical treatment.

With Senate Republicans holding only a 51-49 majority, the loss of those two GOP votes to confirm means that Pompeo’s fate rests in the hands of Senate Democrats. If all 49 Senate Democrats vote against him, his nomination will die on the Senate floor. If at least one of them votes to confirm Pompeo, he will be the next secretary of State.

Trump’s decision to secretly send Pompeo to North Korea checkmates Senate Democrats. As far as the North Koreans are concerned, Pompeo is now Trump’s man. Were the Senate to deny him confirmation now because not a single Senate Democrat votes to confirm him would send an unmistakable and dangerous signal to Pyongyang that Washington is weak and doesn’t have its act together.

That’s not the kind of signal you want to send to the unstable leader of an unstable regime that is just steps away from having its hands on nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them to the continental United States. It’s quite possible that were Pompeo’s confirmation be defeated, the discussions with Pyongyang would collapse, leaving no way forward on negotiations to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

Did Trump decide to send Pompeo to North Korea for precisely this purpose, to lock in Pompeo as a crucial voice in sensitive international negotiations and, consequently, tie the hands of Senate Democrats? Maybe. Maybe not. More likely, Trump sent Pompeo to North Korea because Trump trusts Pompeo to represent him and U.S. interests properly. That’s exactly why Trump chose to nominate Pompeo to take over the State Department in the first place.

It was no secret in Washington that Trump and former Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTrump sends nomination for Russia ambassador to Senate Democrats eye Pompeo testimony On The Money: IMF estimates US-China trade war to shave 0.8 percent from global economy | NY prosecutors urge appeals court not to block Trump tax subpoena | Turkish bank linked to Giuliani client charged with fraud, money laundering MORE didn’t see eye to eye. Unfortunately, Washington was not the only capital where that was not a secret. In Moscow, Beijing, London and more, the Trump-Tillerson friction was well known. That made it difficult for Tillerson to do his job properly because if foreign leaders know the secretary of State doesn’t have the American president’s ear, they’re not likely to invest much in developing their relationship with him.

Frankly, the cause of the Trump-Tillerson friction makes no difference. All that matters is that it was there, and everyone knew about it. By sending Pompeo to North Korea to negotiate on his behalf, Trump has sent exactly the opposite message about Pompeo to the world. Pompeo is the president’s guy, the man he sent to negotiate with the Hermit Kingdom. Don’t mess with him, unless you’re willing to mess with Trump.

Fifteen Senate Democrats voted to confirm Pompeo to his current job as CIA director. Clearly, they thought he had the temperament, character, experience and smarts to do that job. Some, clearly under pressure from their left-wing bases, have backed off those votes, using weasel words to explain why they are now planning to flip flop and cast votes against his confirmation as secretary of State. That was before the news of Pompeo’s visit to North Korea. This changes the calculus.

Will Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillIranian attacks expose vulnerability of campaign email accounts Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Ocasio-Cortez blasts NYT editor for suggesting Tlaib, Omar aren't representative of Midwest MORE cater to her liberal base in Missouri and leave herself forced to defend an action that can reasonably be said to have led to the collapse of talks with North Korea? What about Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyWatchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE in Indiana, Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineLawmakers set to host fundraisers focused on Nats' World Series trip The Hill's 12:30 Report: Washington mourns loss of Elijah Cummings GOP cautions Graham against hauling Biden before Senate MORE in Virginia, Angus KingAngus Stanley KingSenators fear Syria damage 'irreversible' after Esper, Milley briefing Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine Democrats grill Army, Air Force nominees on military funding for border wall MORE in Maine, Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharDeVos calls Democratic presidential hopeful's education plans 'crazy' Senate Democrats want Warren to talk costs on 'Medicare for All' Biden struggles to reverse fall MORE in Minnesota and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Energy: Perry to step down as Energy secretary | Future of big-game hunting council up in the air | Dems lose vote against EPA power plant rule Senate Dems lose forced vote against EPA power plant rule Schumer seeks focus on health care amid impeachment fever MORE in West Virginia, each of whom voted to confirm Pompeo to his current position, and all of whom are on the ballot in November? The campaign ads write themselves. I, for one, cannot wait.

Jenny Beth Martin is chairman of Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.