Politics

With an Eye on 2024, a Rarely Bashful Pompeo Grows More Combative

Criticized for partisan activity even when he was the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo is taking aim at the Biden administration and talking like a candidate.



By Lara Jakes and Michael Crowley

WASHINGTON — As secretary of state during the Trump administration, Mike Pompeo had little regard for his job’s genteel diplomatic protocols, routinely throwing verbal punches against foreign governments, political opponents and the mainstream media.

Out of office for more than two months, Mr. Pompeo has not stopped punching. In a series of speeches, interviews and Twitter posts, he is emerging as the most outspoken critic of President Biden among former top Trump officials. And he is ignoring, much as he did in office, the custom that current and former secretaries of state avoid the appearance of political partisanship.

In back-to-back appearances in Iowa and during an interview in New Hampshire over the past week, Mr. Pompeo questioned the Biden administration’s resolve toward China. In Iowa, he accused the White House of reversing the Trump administration’s immigration policy “willy-nilly and without any thought.” He derided Mr. Biden for referring to notes during his first formal news conference on Thursday.

“What’s great about not being the secretary of state anymore is I can say things that when I was a diplomat I couldn’t say,” Mr. Pompeo said the next morning, to a small crowd at the Westside Conservative Club near Des Moines.

Never mind that he was hardly known for biting his tongue, even as the nation’s top diplomat. It seems clear that Mr. Pompeo, a onetime Republican congressman from Kansas, is animated not just by freedom but also by a drive for high elective office that has long been evident to friends and foes. His appearances in a pair of presidential battleground states only seem to confirm his widely assumed interest in a 2024 presidential campaign.

“Usually former presidents and secretaries of state try not to quickly trash their successors — especially in foreign policy,” said Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian. He said Mr. Pompeo “probably believes he is demonstrating his Trumpiness by castigating the performance of the newly installed President Biden.”

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