A season of hardships is coming for U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. As a result of the 2018 midterm elections, Donald Trump has secured a re-election bridgehead. He kept the Republican majority in terms of governors and increased the Republican majority in the Senate. Essentially, it’s not that bad losing the House of Representatives because the president is elected by the Electoral College.
Yet it’s different for Pompeo, who is looking ahead to 2024, after Trump. His base, Kansas, just lost the governor spot to the Democratic Party for the first time in eight years.* His political base is becoming risky. With the new Congress convening on Jan. 3, the danger is already at hand. Unlike Trump, who already had a bad relationship with House Speaker Paul Ryan, even with a Republican majority, Pompeo just lost the vital congressional protection of the Republican House majority, which is very important to the success of the secretary of state position.
The Democratic Party is looking to punish Pompeo for not appearing before the Congress since he took office in May. Eliot Engel, the likely incoming chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on CNN, “[H]e appeared before the Senate but did not appear before the House. That was a snub any way you want to look at it.”
In addition, Pompeo has old scores to settle with Democratic congressmen from his days in the House. He worked as a member of the House Select Investigative Committee during the 2012 Benghazi attack, and had a huge impact on investigating then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s mistakes. Engel said, “If he was treated the way we feel like we are being treated, he would rant and rave.”
The problem is that the Democratic Party has included the North Korean nuclear negotiations in its list of questions that it wishes to ask Pompeo. The Democrats want to know what Trump conceded and promised to Kim Jong Un. When the Republican Party had the majority in the House, it ignored the Democratic Party’s request for information.
The combination of North Korea wanting sanctions lifted, the postponement of negotiations and the House’s limited power only decreases the scope of negotiations. Additionally, looking at Pompeo’s “keep sanctions” statement and Mike Pence’s comments on “unprecedented pressure,” one can see the influence that the change of power created by the midterm elections has brought. If the Democratic-majority House starts a full-fledged investigation into Trump’s Russian relationshps and business incentives, Trump will have no choice but to put the North Korean nuclear issue on the back burner.
The North Korea-U.S. negotiations are coming to a narrow and winding road. If Kim really intends to denuclearize, he must start negotiations with Pompeo and special representative Stephen Biegun before the Democratic House of Representatives convenes. This also holds true for the implementation of the inter-Korean summit agreement.
*Editor’s note: Mike Pompeo represented the 4th Congressional District of Kansas from 2011 to 2017.