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What To Expect From Pompeo At State

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Mike Pompeo arrived in Washington, D.C., just seven years ago to represent the 4th Congressional District of Kansas. This week, President Trump nominated him to represent the United States around the world as secretary of state. He's been director of the CIA for the past 14 months. And to learn more about Mike Pompeo, we're joined by his former congressional chief of staff Jim Richardson. Mr. Richardson, thanks very much for being with us.

JIM RICHARDSON: And thank you for having me.

SIMON: What kind of boss was Mike Pompeo?

RICHARDSON: Mike was a tremendous boss. He has the ability to articulate a clear vision. He has the ability to motivate people. People are excited to work for him. He's encouraging. And he really drives to success.

SIMON: He was first in his class at West Point...

RICHARDSON: Yes.

SIMON: ...Army officer during the Gulf War, Harvard Law graduate, successful businessman. This has been a quick rise in politics, hasn't it?

RICHARDSON: You know, it has. But at the same time, he has really shown a quality of excellence throughout everything he has done, right? It's not just he went to West Point. He graduated first in his class. It's not just that he went to Harvard Law School. But he was editor of the Harvard Law Review. It's not just he started a small business. But he built it to over 400 employees. So everything he has entered he has done well. He's obviously had setbacks and challenges. But he's persevered through that and has really done an amazing job. And he did an amazing job as a congressman. He's done an amazing job as the director of the CIA. And he'll do amazing job as secretary of state.

SIMON: Secretary Tillerson, of course, was intent on reorganizing the State Department. Many positions have been left open, unfilled. Many people have resigned. Do you think Mike Pompeo wants to reorganize the State Department?

RICHARDSON: You know, I don't know. I haven't - I've had - exchanged some emails and texts with Mike just to congratulate him and encourage him on. But we were - largely haven't talked about work over the past 14 months for good reason. And so you know what? Mike needs to take a look at the State Department, understand the challenges and plot a path forward for the departments. And I know he'll do a great job at that.

SIMON: He wasn't an early supporter of Donald Trump.

RICHARDSON: He wasn't. He originally supported Marco Rubio. He had a relationship with Marco sort of early on. And so when Marco bowed out of the race, he was a enthusiastic supporter of Donald Trump and Vice President Pence, as well.

SIMON: President Trump has sounded pretty blunt in recent days about the fact that he wants people to be on his team. He apparently doesn't like being contradicted. He says he wants different opinions. But he seems to be getting rid of a lot of people who offer them. And now Mike Pompeo has been nominated to be secretary of state. Do you think he's going to stand up to the president if that's what he needs to do?

RICHARDSON: You know, I mean, I think that's a great question that I'm sure Mike will get during confirmation. All I can do is speak to his background and his capacity. He is the smartest, hardest-working guy that I've ever met in politics. He radiates integrity. And he will stand for what he believes is right. And so - but in terms of his personal relationship with the president and how he communicates that, I'm sure the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will ask that question during confirmation.

SIMON: Jim Richardson, now senior adviser at USAID and from 2010 to 2016, a top aide to then-Congressman Mike Pompeo. Thanks very much for being with us.

RICHARDSON: Thank you very much for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.