The Washington Post has reported a remarkable story about Mike Pompeo and North Korea tonight:
CIA Director Mike Pompeo made a top-secret visit to North Korea over Easter weekend as an envoy for President Trump to meet with that country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, according to two people with direct knowledge of the trip.
The extraordinary meeting between one of Trump’s most trusted emissaries and the authoritarian head of a rogue state was part of an effort to lay the groundwork for direct talks between Trump and Kim about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, according to the two people, who requested anonymity because of the highly classified nature of the talks.
Pompeo’s visit to North Korea is another indication that the Trump administration is following through on its commitment to participate in the proposed summit between Trump and Kim. The gap between the public U.S. and North Korean positions remains significant, and sending Pompeo as an emissary may have been intended to signal that the U.S. isn’t going to budge from its maximalist demands. There is still good reason to think that the Trump administration has misunderstood North Korean offers up until now.
The timing of this news is also interesting. It is very likely Pompeo will not receive a favorable recommendation from the Foreign Relations Committee because of the opposition of the committee’s Democrats and Sen. Rand Paul. McCain has also voiced objections to Pompeo’s nomination because of the latter’s past support for torture. It is extremely unusual for a nominee to be confirmed if the relevant committee refuses to endorse the choice, and there is a chance that Pompeo’s nomination could fail. If the news of Pompeo’s trip was leaked to dissuade wavering senators from voting against him, it still shouldn’t outweigh his otherwise generally awful record.
Pompeo has consistently shown no interest in diplomacy, he has ridiculed successful agreements as the equivalent of surrender, and his all-or-nothing approach to negotiations with adversaries practically guarantees that diplomacy with North Korea won’t go anywhere. It would be a serious mistake for the Senate to confirm a nominee with no relevant experience and no understanding of diplomacy to be our top diplomat, and no trip can change that.