Here’s what you need to know about President Donald Trump’s latest nominees for Secretary of State and CIA Director
By Amy Hansen
Another staff shakeup hit the White House Tuesday.
In a tweet sent at 8:44 a.m., President Donald Trump announced CIA Director Mike Pompeo would become his Secretary of State, ousting Rex Tillerson from the position. The president also used the same message to announce the agency’s deputy director Gina Haspel would replace Pompeo and be promoted to the organization’s top spot.
Tillerson’s official last day in office is March 31. Both Pompeo and Haspel will need to be confirmed by the Senate before the moves would become official.
Learn more about the leaders below.
Pompeo has a distinguished academic background. The California native graduated first in his class at West Point, worked as a cavalry officer, and then earned a degree from Harvard Law School. He later started an aerospace company in Kansas.
He spent six years on Capitol Hill. Beginning in 2011, Pompeo represented Kansas as a Republican in the House. He served on a handful of committees, including the group tasked with investigating Benghazi. He left to become the CIA’s director in 2017.
President Trump’s a fan. “Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State,” the president tweeted. “He will do a fantastic job!” The president later elaborated on his relationship with Pompeo, telling reporters “we’re always on the same wavelength.”
The sentiment is shared by some Republicans, too. "I cannot think of a better choice for our new secretary of state than Mike Pompeo," Sen. Lindsey Graham said.
He’s a “hardliner” on national security. That label comes from global policy expert Ian Bremmer, who told NPR "he's smart, but he's also quite bombastic, and that plays well with Trump. But that doesn't necessarily support a balanced national security policy."
And in a recent interview with Fox News, Pompeo reiterated the White House’s stance that North Korea must provide proof the country has denuclearized before a meeting would be facilitated between the two countries.
She would become the CIA’s first female director. While women have held positions of power at the organization, none have held the top spot during the agency’s 70-year history.
Haspel has had an award-winning career. She’s spent 33 years with the CIA. Her accolades include the George H.W. Bush Award, the highest award given by the organization for counterterrorism efforts, along with a distinguished award for federal civil servants. She’s had several stints overseas and has also held several leadership roles with the organization, according to her official biography.
She allegedly has controversial ties to a secret prison overseas. According to USA Today, Haspel reportedly was in charge of a jail in Thailand, where “terrorism suspects were waterboarded and subjected to other so-called enhanced interrogations.” The Washington Post reports Haspel was one of the CIA’s representatives who decided to get rid of video footage of interrogations “that left some detainees on the brink of physical collapse.”
Haspel could be in store for a contentious Senate confirmation hearing. And it won’t be the first time Haspel has encountered confrontation on the Hill. CNN reports Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., blocked a promotion for Haspel in 2013, and several Democrats in the Senate did not want Haspel to be considered for the deputy director spot four years later. The opposition was due to that prison in Thailand.