President Donald Trump suggested Friday that he’s open to his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, leaving the administration to pursue a Senate seat in Kansas “if he thought that there was a chance of losing that seat.”
Trump told “Fox and Friends” that he spoke to Pompeo about the seat, calling him “an incredible guy doing a great job in a very complicated world” who “would win easily in Kansas.”
“If I thought they had somebody out there that couldn’t win – and Mike would, really, he loves what he’s doing. … He came to me and said, ‘Look, I’d rather stay where I am.’ But he loves Kansas, he loves the people of Kansas,” Trump said. “If he thought that there was a chance of losing that seat, I think he would do that and he would win in a landslide because they love him in Kansas.”
CNN has reached out to the State Department for comment about the President’s comments.
Kansas hasn’t had a Democratic senator since 1932, but the looming retirement of veteran Republican Sen. Pat Roberts has become a cause for concern within the GOP establishment. The worry is that the party will nominate Kris Kobach, an anti-illegal immigration firebrand and voter-fraud crusader who lost the governor’s race last year only to turn around and announce his candidacy for Senate in July. Pompeo has long been Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s first choice for the seat.
The former CIA director has downplayed the possibility of running, at one point saying he’d “be the secretary of state as long as President Trump gives (him) the chance to serve as a senior diplomat.”
But so far in 2019, Pompeo has taken four visits (including three official State trips) to Kansas. He has also done several interviews with local radio and newspapers in the past few months.
The former House lawmaker may be warming up to a run even more in the wake of the impeachment inquiry.
Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the EU, testified Wednesday that he had kept Pompeo “in the loop” about “activities” connected to the effort to get Ukraine to announce an investigation into Trump’s main political rival.
The top US diplomat has tried to keep his distance, but Sondland’s testimony ensnared Pompeo at the center of the impeachment probe he has denounced as “Washington noise.”
In a damning opening statement, Sondland testified that he had told Pompeo and other senior officials at the State Department and other government agencies about his pursuits in Ukraine and his dealings with the President’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Sondland said they had been specifically apprised of efforts to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to publicly announce investigations into Burisma – a Ukrainian natural gas company that had hired Joe Biden’s son Hunter – and the 2016 election.
“Everyone was in the loop,” Sondland said. “It was no secret.”
Since the inquiry has unfolded, Pompeo has also faced increased pressure at the State Department.
Revelations that Pompeo was unwilling to defend career State Department officials under political attack have damaged his standing within the Department and devastated morale there, according to multiple people familiar with the situation.
Former US Ambassador for Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, for instance, testified that as allies of Trump were publicly attacking her and calling for her removal, she pushed the Department to speak up and defend her. But Yovanovitch’s requests went unanswered, furthering concerns that Pompeo would not defend other foreign service officials who became targets of the President and his friends.
And while Pompeo had said in an interview that a proposal of a statement of public support for Yovanovitch was never brought up to him by Michael McKinley, his senior adviser, McKinley said in testimony that he raised the idea directly with Pompeo three times and the Secretary did nothing substantive to respond.
CNN’s Betsy Klein, Jennifer Hansler, Alex Rogers, Michael Warren and Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.