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Pompeo's rise has been swift to secretary of state nomination, political scientist says

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

LAWRENCE — President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he would appoint CIA director Mike Pompeo, a former Kansas congressman, to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.

A University of Kansas researcher of American politics said the development marks a steep advancement for Pompeo, who reportedly has fostered a strong working relationship with Trump.

"Mike Pompeo's rise from House member to potentially the next secretary of state is an unusually swift rise in an unusual administration," said Patrick Miller, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science. "Before Trump appointed him as CIA director, Pompeo was a relatively junior House member with a low national profile, though to the extent he had a reputation it was as a Tea Party conservative and as someone interested in national security issues."

Miller is available to speak about Pompeo's background and career representing Kansas in Congress. Miller's broad research interests include American politics and attitudes of partisanship, among other topics, and he has served as lead author on studies about partisan rivalry and gender and compromise.

When Trump built his initial cabinet in 2017, media reported Pompeo had a strong relationship with the president, making his appointment as CIA director seem somewhat logical, Miller said.

"The surprising part of his story is the speed at which he is climbing the ladder. The Trump administration has suffered from unusually high turnover in administrative positions and unusual controversy surrounding several members of the cabinet on things like ethics matters and their personal relationship with Trump," Miller said. "Especially for a high-profile position like secretary of state, it would not be unusual for a president to nominate a new secretary after winning re-election. But lately, this sort of transition so early in a first term is not the norm. So the dynamics of the Trump administration are creating some nontypical opportunities for advancement for someone like Pompeo."

According to media reports, trouble surrounding Trump's relationship with Tillerson possibly was a major factor, he said.

"Pompeo may be someone who Trump thinks he can have a better personal relationship with, though assessing the dynamics of that relationship is difficult from the outside," Miller said. "Whatever the inside story is here, Pompeo's rise has been fast and unusualbut certainly indicates that Trump trusts him a great deal."

To arrange an interview with Miller, contact George Diepenbrock at 785-864-8853 or gdiepenbrock@ku.edu.

Photo credit: Central Intelligence Agency.