What’s more surprising here, the timing or the fact that Mike Pompeo appears to be cooperating?
Pompeo is a potential 2024 candidate, after all. Another 2024 hopeful, Mike Pence, has kept his distance from the committee despite the fact that he’s the most interesting and material witness they could call (apart from Trump himself). Pence knows that testifying before Liz Cheney’s panel would extinguish whatever tiny chance remains of him becoming the Republican nominee someday.
Doesn’t Pompeo understand that too?
I assume the committee has been after him, Steve Mnuchin, and other Trump cabinet members to sit for depositions for many months since they’re all firsthand witnesses to Trump’s behavior during the post-election period. So why are they only being asked for interviews now? Had they been resisting until recently, at which point something changed their minds? Like, say, Steve Bannon’s conviction for contempt?
Or did the committee deliberately wait to approach them until they had developed the facts more fully via other witnesses, believing that they’d get more out of cabinet members if those members knew that the committee had the goods already?
Whatever the answer, the top tier of the Trump administration’s bureaucracy is now being roped in. And it sounds like the committee has a specific topic they want them to address.
Trump’s former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who reportedly discussed the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment as a vehicle to remove Trump from office with then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, recently sat with committee investigators for a transcribed interview, the sources said.
ABC News previously reported that Pompeo is expected to speak with the committee in the coming days, though his interview is not officially scheduled…
Among the officials actively negotiating with the committee are the former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and the former acting secretary for the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, sources familiar with the negotiations said.
Committee investigators are not only focused on the discussions surrounding the 25th Amendment that occurred within the Cabinet, but also Cabinet members’ concerns after the attack on the Capitol about Trump’s decision-making, including his potential conversations with world leaders.
Cassidy Hutchinson testified that Pompeo called her boss, Mark Meadows, on January 6 to let him know that cabinet members were discussing using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from power. Jonathan Karl of ABC reported last November that one of those discussions was held between Pompeo and Mnuchin, and that Pompeo subsequently “asked for a legal analysis of the 25th Amendment and how it would work.” That’s how far the plan advanced that day.
You can see why the committee is interested in hearing about that and preserving the testimony on tape. Their strategy from the start of this process has been to highlight how many Republicans around Trump came to view him as unfit for office and to view the “stop the steal” effort as a disgrace. Nothing would punctuate that like having his own handpicked agency heads explaining that they thought he was so far off the rails on January 6 that they might need to declare him psychologically incapable of carrying out his duties and transfer power to Mike Pence instead.
Which is basically what happened anyway when Mark Milley started taking orders from Pence that afternoon on securing the Capitol.
The committee wants Republican voters to see Mike Pompeo, who headed not one but two top federal departments under Trump, say on tape that he thought Trump had lost his mind. Is Pompeo willing to say that, knowing what it would mean for his future in Republican politics?
And what will he say when he’s asked about this?
This dangerous post-election period, Milley said, was all because of Trump’s “Hitler”-like embrace of the “Big Lie” that the election had been stolen from him; Milley feared it was Trump’s “Reichstag moment,” in which, like Adolf Hitler in 1933, he would manufacture a crisis in order to swoop in and rescue the nation from it.
To prevent such an outcome, Milley had, since late in 2020, been having morning phone meetings, at 8 a.m. on most days, with the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in the hopes of getting the country safely through to Joe Biden’s Inauguration. The chairman, a burly four-star Army general who had been appointed to the post by Trump in 2019, referred to these meetings with his staff as the “land the plane” calls—as in, “both engines are out, the landing gear are stuck, we’re in an emergency situation. Our job is to land this plane safely and to do a peaceful transfer of power the 20th of January.”
What was said in those “land the plane” meetings with Milley? Did Pompeo share the general’s opinion that “stop the steal” was Trump’s version of the Reichstag fire?
Lotta political peril here for him, not that he had any plausible chance of being elected president anyway.
Meanwhile, although Republicans aren’t paying much attention to the January 6 hearings, independents are:
It could be that Pompeo will march into his deposition, tell the committee that everything Hutchinson said was a lie, and cement the admiration of Trump voters by so doing. But it’s also possible that he recognizes the hearings are souring some voters on Trump and is calculating that signal-boosting them by participating in them is a way to do his part to render the former guy unelectable. Maybe Pompeo even has a Liz Cheney streak to him in which he knows that testifying will hurt his own career aspirations but feels obliged to do so anyway to try to block Trump’s path to a second term for the good of the country. I’m dying to see if he gives the committee anything damaging, knowing the consequences if he does.