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Nominee to lead State Dept.: Soft policy on Russia 'over'

Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo leaves a meeting with Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, April 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) DCAH117
Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo leaves a meeting with Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, April 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) DCAH117
Published Apr. 11, 2018

WASHINGTON — Mike Pompeo, the hard-charging CIA director picked to be the next secretary of state, will tell the Senate today that years of soft U.S. policy toward Russia are "now over." Drawing a sharp contrast with predecessor Rex Tillerson, Pompeo will vow to promote democracy and human rights while ending "demoralizing" vacancies at the State Department.

According to his prepared remarks, Pompeo will chastise Russia for acting "aggressively" and emphasize that the Trump administration considers Russia "a danger to our country." But he will also say that diplomatic efforts with Moscow, while challenging, "must continue." The Associated Press obtained excerpts of his remarks from a senior Trump administration official.

Pompeo will also stress America's "duty to lead," despite Trump's vows to put "America first."

"If we do not lead the calls for democracy, prosperity and human rights around the world, who will?" Pompeo plans to say. "No other nation is equipped with the same blend of power and principle."

Pompeo's remarks today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will be the first chance for lawmakers and the public to hear directly from the former Kansas congressman about his approach to diplomacy and the role of the State Department, should he be confirmed to lead it. Pompeo's views on global issues are well known — he was questioned extensively by senators for his confirmation to run the CIA — but Democratic senators have raised questions about his fitness to be top diplomat, given his hawkish views and past comments about minorities.

"When journalists, most of whom have never met me, label me — or any of you — as 'hawks,' 'war hardliners,' or worse, I shake my head," the former Army officer will say. "There are few who dread war more than those of us who have served in uniform."

He will add, "War is always the last resort."

"President Trump isn't one to play games at the negotiating table, and I won't be either," Pompeo plans to say.