Washington (CNN)The Trump administration pulled out pomp, ceremony and a string quartet to celebrate the swearing in of its new top diplomat, Mike Pompeo, in an event intended to send clear messages within Washington and to the outside world.
Trump makes it clear that Pompeo is his man at State
Washington's powerful crowded into the State Department's gold-trimmed, pillar-lined Benjamin Franklin Room on Wednesday along with members of the first family to watch President Donald Trump laud the new secretary of state before Vice President Mike Pence led Pompeo through his swearing-in ceremony.
It was theater -- Pompeo had been sworn in a week earlier by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito -- but for Trump and Pompeo, the event served a crucial purpose.
Pompeo underscored the careful messaging he's been conducting throughout his first week, conveying to his new team at State that he's excited to lead them and that, once again, they matter.
Trump, in his first ever visit to State, and in his emphasis on the faith he has in Pompeo, was signaling to the world that this secretary of state -- unlike his last one -- will carry with him the authority and confidence of the White House as he travels the world.
It's a particularly crucial message to send as the coming month will be fraught with both risk and opportunity for the administration and the newly minted secretary of state.
The White House has hinted it could leave the Iran nuclear deal on May 12. Two days later, it will open its new embassy in Jerusalem, a move that could ignite anti-US sentiment in the Middle East and broader Muslim world.
Meanwhile, the US is preparing for a high-stakes summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that could take place before the month is out. And an early June decision on aluminum and steel import tariffs could seriously strain relations with some of the closest US allies: the European Union, Canada and Mexico.
Pompeo has "earned my deepest respect and admiration and trust, and you'll see why over the coming years -- probably, over the coming months," Trump said. "I have absolute confidence that he will do an incredible job as the nation's 70th secretary of state."
The listening crowd, clustered around raised round tables in the agency's largest and most ornate diplomatic reception room, included ambassadors from across the globe, Trump's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as well as a slew of senior and Cabinet officials, their presence underscoring Pompeo's importance in the Trump pantheon.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, national security adviser John Bolton, White House chief of staff John Kelly, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and the nominee to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel -- "our Gina," Trump called her -- milled through the crowd.
The State Department's protocol team brought out the agency's polished trimmings and pageantry for the event, with a harpist welcoming arriving guests in the lobby, a military string quartet in crisp red jackets playing at the reception and liveried waiters serving coffee on gold-edged china.
It was a glossy reception for the President's first visit. Trump notably did not visit the State Department during the tenure of Pompeo's predecessor, Rex Tillerson, and his presence on Wednesday suggests that he and the White House are prepared to usher in a new era behind their new top diplomat.
As he began his opening remarks, Trump noted the applause, saying, "I must say that's more spirit than I've heard from the State Department in a long time." As he gestured to Pompeo, he added that "that spirit will only be magnified with this man right here. I know that for a fact."
Trump for the first time publicly extolled "the extraordinary men and women of the State Department. We are profoundly grateful for everything you do for our country," he said, and hinted at the work ahead and some that's already underway.
"You'll be doing things that you don't even know about," Trump said, "And we have a couple going, Mike, right now, that a lot of people don't know about that are very, very encouraging."
When it was his turn to address the crowd on Wednesday, Pompeo spoke of the "truly humbling" honor of leading the State Department, praising career diplomats and agency personnel, whom he described as the "world's finest diplomatic corps."
He also personally thanked Trump and said his team would be "unrelenting in confronting (global) threats" to "make sure America is always a respected and principled leader on the world stage."
Pompeo spoke of the threats posed by Iran and Russia -- as well as the economic threat posed by China -- in his opening remarks. He also praised the President's decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and to reaffirm historic alliances with European partners.
On the issue of North Korea, Pompeo said the administration intends to change the course on the Korean Peninsula "once and for all."
After outlining those challenges, as well as work to be done with European allies, Pompeo directly addressed "my colleagues here," and said, "when I say we're going to do this, I mean 'we.' This is a team effort at the State Department and the whole of the United States government."
Echoing a theme from his remarks to State Department employees on Tuesday, Pompeo again said he plans to give the department back its "swagger."
State Department staffers could watch the entire event on an internal livestream and many said they came away cautiously buoyed by the obvious prestige Pompeo holds within the administration, by the esteem Trump has for him and by his messages to them.
One top State Department official said Pompeo's remarks and his initial interactions with staff have been "pitch perfect."
"There is a real desire to connect with this guy, and he is connecting," the senior official said. "Time will tell but so far, so good. He is saying and doing the right things."