Home/Daniel Larison/Pompeo and the Politicization of the State Department

Pompeo and the Politicization of the State Department

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo participates in a press conference with U.S. President Donald J. Trump during the NATO Foreign Ministerial in Brussels on July 12, 2018. (State Department photo/ Public Domain)

Pompeo’s former senior adviser at the State Department, Michael McKinley, resigned last week, and he is scheduled to meet with impeachment investigators today. According to this Postreport, he is expected to detail mistreatment of career diplomats, including the recall of the former ambassador to Ukraine:

Michael McKinley, the former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo until his sudden resignation last week, will tell House impeachment investigators Wednesday that career diplomats were mistreated during his tenure and some had their careers derailed for political reasons [bold mine-DL], according to a person familiar with his testimony.

McKinley will outline how his concerns culminated with the recall of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, a punitive action he and many other rank-and-file diplomats viewed as wholly unjustified.

“The unwillingness of State Department leadership to defend Yovanovitch or interfere with an obviously partisan effort to intervene in our relationship with Ukraine for the political benefit of the president was too much for him,” said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid.

It speaks volumes about Pompeo’s failed tenure at State that his senior adviser has resigned in protest over the mistreatment of career diplomats. The Secretary of State is a blowhard and a bully, so we should expect that he would mismanage the department in the same way that he has conducted himself in his dealings with other governments and the press. The report says that McKinley will not criticize Pompeo directly, but “he will discuss his concern over the politicization of the agency in the Trump administration.” In other words, he will call attention to the damage Pompeo has done without mentioning him by name. Pompeo is arguably the most partisan Secretary of State in modern times, and the department’s politicization is an outgrowth of that. He has always been more interested in keeping the president satisfied than he was in defending the department he was appointed to lead, and as a result he has failed to stand up for the people that work for him. The Ukraine imbroglio appears to have been the final straw for McKinley, and it may end up being the thing that defines Pompeo’s tenure.

The Trump administration has waged a war on U.S. diplomacy for almost three years, and it seems that some of the diplomats are finally starting to fight back.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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