The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: mike pompeo

Pompeo Torched On Twitter For ‘Epic Freudian Slip’

Mike Pompeo, who served as former U.S. Secretary of State under the Trump administration, caused a bit of confusion with his recent slip-up on live television.

But, according to HuffPost, some critics saw the jaw-dropping slip-up as "a rare moment of honesty" for the former government official who has a history of sharing false narratives. During his appearance on Fox News with Laura Ingraham asked Pompeo: "Why does the left act as if conservatives are a bigger threat to America than the” Chinese Communist Party?"

“Because, in fact, we often are," Pompeo answered before veering off into a rant to explain why he believes the so-called "left" has "'deep ties' to communism,'" The Post notes.


As expected, Twitter users immediately weighed in with their reactions to Pompeo's remarks. One user tweeted, "Having spent two years reporting on Pompeo, I can attest to how dangerous he is. He turned USAID into a rogue playground for right-wing extremists."

Another user wrote, "Wow. He almost accidentally tells the truth for a split second but then ruins it with an avalanche of bullshit. The @GOP is so “anti-communist” that they’ve been compromised by Russia since the mid-90’s."




Printed with permission from Alternet.

Former Pompeo Flack Knows Zero About District She Wants To Represent

Morgan Ortagus, a former State Department spokesperson under Mike Pompeo, wants to be a congresswoman in Tennessee’s 5th District. The problem is, she knows less than nothing about the district she’s running in.

When Ortagus showed up to Nashville’s talk radio show on 1510 WLAC for an interview Monday, host Michael Patrick Leahy asked if she’d be up for a game of “Taking the Fifth.”

What followed was a total shit show, revealing that the congressional wannabe Barbie was clueless about the district she says she wants to run.

Leahy began with a simple question, asking Ortagus to name the three highways that ran through the district. “I’m a terrible driver,” she said laughing. “I don’t know that. I don’t drive anywhere that I go.”

Okay …

Then Leahy asked her to name the multi-Grammy Award-winning country music singer who owns a popular winery in the district. She attempted to dodge the question saying, “I have been to that winery. It’s great—I love that winery. I bought some wine.” Leahy pushed on asking her to name the singer who owns the winery. She admitted to having no idea, but added that she’d gone there and had “a picnic outside,” and it “was beautiful.”

The answer is Kix Brooks, a country music artist, actor, and film producer best known for being one half of the duo Brooks & Dunn and host of radio's American Country Countdown.

Leahy then asked her who Brig. Gen. Robert Reese Neyland was, to which she plead the fifth.

Neyland was a legendary football player and coach in the U.S. Army and served three stints as the head football coach at the University of Tennessee. There’s even a stadium in Tennessee named after him.

Leahy attempted to go to what should have been Ortagus’ strong suit, politics, but that was an apparent failure as well. When she was asked to name the four previous Republican governors who are still living in Tennessee, she said:

“Well, let’s see. All four of them. No. I know Lee and Haslam. I met with Haslam right after I moved here. What a nice guy. And then, of course, I’ve met Governor Lee,” Ortagus said.

The correct answer is Don Sundquist, Lamar Alexander, and Winifield Dunn.

Leahy then switched topics again, hoping to give the Biden-basher another chance to get at least one answer right. But no chance.

”One of the most famous NASCAR drivers living today lives in the 5th District and has a large auto dealership in Franklin. Who is that,” Leahy asked. To which she answered: “My husband is the car guy. He used to race. He knows all of the racing stuff.”

The answer is Darrell Waltrip.

In one final hope, Leahy asked her again about the political history of her state.

“Who was the only Tennessee governor who ever served time in prison for crimes committed while in office?” he asked, giving her the hint that the man was a Democrat, a well-known Confederate general, one whose name and history have been a source of enormous controversy in Tennessee the last few years and who was born and raised in the community of Chapel Hill, in the 5th district.

But, alas, Ortagus did not know.

The answer is Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was not just any Confederate general, but the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan from 1867 to 1869. Before the war, Forrest amassed substantial wealth as a cotton plantation owner, horse and cattle trader, real estate broker, and slave trader.

The last question was probably the most embarrassing of them all.

Leahy asked her to name the county Chapel Hill is in. Again, she did not know.

“Marshall County. It’s in your district,” Leahy said.

And that my friend is the Republican Party in a nutshell.

Ortagus is running against incumbent Democrat Rep. Jim Cooper, who announced his retirement after more than 32 years in Congress as the current district will be dismantled.

Ortagus has been running on her “concern” over immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border.

“You see a border that he [Biden] has absolutely no control of. It’s a major national security issue. You see inflation over 7.5%. You see people like my neighbors, people who live in the 5th Congressional District in Tennessee, who are making really hard choices about getting a full tank of gas or getting a full cart of groceries. It shouldn’t be that way in America.”

Ortagus served during the Bush administration in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and was posted to Baghdad. She served as a spokesperson for the USAID in 2017 and later worked as an intelligence analyst for the Treasury Department.

While in Baghdad she began exploring Judaism and eventually converted.

“I just had a sense of it really touching me in a way that religion had not in a very, very long time,” Ortagus told Jewish Insider. Following the service, which was held in a U.S. Army trailer, attendees ate a “kosher-ish” meal at the chow hall. “I don’t think we ever had any challah, but we definitely had some rolls,” she said.

She has said that she got her job as an intelligence analyst at the Treasury Department while “at a bar.” Despite her lack of experience, she was hired.

“You may not be the smartest, you may not be the most accomplished, you may not be the best looking; you may not be any of these things, but no matter what, I will outwork you,” she told Jewish Insider.

Well, at least part of that statement is correct.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Media Must Stop Whitewashing Republican Worship Of Dictator Putin

American politicians cheerleading a dictator as he sends tanks into a neighboring country and bombs a sovereign nation ought to be a huge news story. The fact that portions of a major U.S. political party, and its aligned media outlets, sanction Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine represents a stunning turning point for the Republican Party and how this country traditionally deals with foreign crises.

Assigning its loyalty and admiration to the Kremlin instead of the West Wing, key parts of the GOP, led by Trump who called Putin’s move “genius,” is embracing a truly radical worldview. But that’s not how the treasonous behavior is being portrayed by the press, which for days has matter-of-factly described the GOP as being “divided” over the prospect of a tyrannical Russian leader — his adversaries regularly end up dead — launching an invasion.

Ho-hum language abounds. There’s been a “split,” the New York Times reports, suggesting that Republicans who turn a blind eye to Putin’s invasion are merely “America First” “isolationists.” The party is facing “foreign policy factionalism,” Politico insisted. It’s sending “mixed messages,” NBC News announced, which went on to describe the GOP’s pro-Putin wing as “a newer brand of America Firsters,” “Republican doves,” and “the libertarian right” which has an “anti-interventionist strain.” None of that accurately describes this unprecedented trend in American politics of endorsing murderous autocrats.

More pedestrian presentation from NBC:

The fissures point to a growing divide in the Republican Party, between traditional foreign policy hawks who have advocated for a more confrontational U.S. posture to the Russian strongman and a Trump-aligned “MAGA” faction that has expressed some sympathy for Putin's tactics or described them as effective.

The Washington Post on Wednesday suggested it was a “novel phenomenon” that a portion of a U.S. political party was siding with the Kremlin over the White House. Novel? The Post article didn’t quote one Democrat or one expert on the rise of authoritarianism to put the GOP’s shocking behavior in context.

The Beltway press treats this as if it were nothing more than an inter-party squabble over taxes or immigration policy, not portions of the party tacitly supporting the largest land invasion in Europe since World War II, a possibly brutal blitzkrieg that could leave thousands of civilians dead. And spearheaded, ironically, by the former Soviet Union, which for decades served as the epicenter of right wing suspicion and hostility; the proverbial Evil Empire.

Today’s kind words for Putin would be like in 1990 after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait, if the Democratic Party had been “divided” over whether the deadly incursion was a good thing or a bad thing, and the D.C. press shrugging and treating it as normal political posturing. In truth, if a single elected Democratic official had even breathed a sentence of support for Hussein back then it would have been a huge story and created a maelstrom of media trouble for the party. Yet Republicans singing Putin’s praise in 2022 is treated as no big deal.

It’s the latest example of the media constantly normalizing reckless conservative behavior. “Trump’s own giddy rush to side with a foreign leader who is proving to be an enemy of the United States and the West is shocking even by Trump’s self-serving standards,” CNN’s Stephen Collinson wrote. It’s “shocking” if you haven’t covered politics for the last six years.

The Putin appeasement coverage also lacks key context — what does this mean that one of America’s two major political parties supports a tyrant who invades his neighbor without cause? A U.S. party that politely regurgitates Kremlin talking points and embraces institutional appeasement for Putin, who in the previous decade stridently defended a Syrian regime that killed tens of thousands of its people in a civil war.

It’s not a minor faction either. Thanks to Trump’s worshipful embrace of Putin for years, 62 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents insist Putin is “a stronger leader” than Biden, according to a recent poll.

The GOP’s Putin bromance actually began under President Barack Obama, when Republicans and the right-wing media marveled at Putin’s political prowess. (Matt Drudge: “Putin is the leader of the free world.”) Why the sudden Republican attraction? Putin (a “macho man”) was defying the U.S. with regards to Syria and when Russia invaded Crimea.

Today it’s not just about oppositional politics — it’s not the GOP conveniently and temporarily embracing Putin because he’s squaring off against another Democratic president. Instead, it’s genuine admiration of an undemocratic strongman imposing his will, which is exactly why Republicans slavishly supported Trump for four years. This is another glimpse into the growing, and unapologetic, undemocratic movement within the GOP — and the press portrays it as normal.

That’s why Trump’s former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who is rumored to have presidential ambitions, told Fox News that Putin is “a very talented statesman” with “lots of gifts," adding, “He knows how to use power. We should respect that.” It’s why the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, former Gov. Eric Greitens, warned about “bloodthirsty Washington elites" and their "warmongering” against Russia.

And it’s why Tucker Carlson tells his millions of Fox News viewers each night that Biden is the one who needlessly provoked Russia, and that Ukraine is not a country worth saving.

Stop whitewashing the madness.

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Newly Revealed Charges Of Misconduct Against Pompeo In State Dept. Documents

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Newly unredacted records from a whistleblower complaint in the State Department have shed light on more allegations against former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and members of his former staff.

According to documents obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Pompeo and others were accused of misconduct.

The organization reports: "The alleged misconduct included false or misleading statements to the agency's legal department, misuse of government resources on personal and political activities potentially prohibited by the Hatch Act, verbal abuse of employees by Mike and Susan Pompeo and directives to staff not to communicate in writing in order to evade transparency laws."

The unredacted documents come two years after the redacted version of the whistleblower complaint was filed with the State Department Office of Inspector General (OIG). The OIG is said to have excluded many of the previous redactions in the version of the documents released to CREW.

"The complaint alleges "[s]everal senior career Foreign Service officials who held positions of responsibility within the Executive Secretariat" turned a blind eye to Pompeo's "questionable activities" and, in some cases, "facilitat[ed]" them, according to CREW.

Employees in the State Department's Office of the Legal Adviser "expressed concern that some of these activities may have violated [the] Hatch Act or other regulations," but the whistleblower was "unaware that any resolution was reached, potentially because senior officials in the Executive Secretariat repeatedly declined to seek clarification or guidance from [the Office of the Legal Adviser] despite requests from subordinates to do so."

The new documents also detail the aftermath of former Inspector general Steve Linick's removal from his post, which was part of a larger Trump-led effort to oust inspectors. The report also indicated that staff members were "stunned" by the directive.

"[T]his is all so surreal three days later. I'm nervous about the future," the OIG employee wrote in a May 18, 2020 email. In a later email, the official added, "I just heard Trump say we needed to get rid of the 'Attorney Generals' as a whole…Oh dear."

CREW has also received other documentation as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit aimed at uncovering information about Pompeo's attempts to hinder the investigation into the allegations of misconduct against him.

Still Lying: Trump Claims Afghan Departure Left '$85 Billion' In Weapons

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On Monday, August 30, former President Donald Trump claimed that the Taliban — now in control of Afghanistan — has seized $83 billion worth of U.S. weapons. But that claim has been fact-checked and refuted by the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler.

In his August 30 statement, Trump said, "Never in history has a withdrawal from war been handled so badly or incompetently as the Biden Administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan. In addition to the obvious, ALL EQUIPMENT should be demanded to be immediately returned to the United States and that includes every penny of the $85 billion dollars in cost. If it is not handed back, we should either go in w/unequivocal Military force and get it, or at least bomb the hell out of it."

Trump failed to mention, of course, that the Biden Administration was following the Trump/Mike Pompeo plan for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, although at a slower pace. Trump and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wanted the U.S. out of Afghanistan even sooner than President Joe Biden. While Biden wanted to withdraw troops before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Trump planned to remove them during the spring of 2021.

Kessler, discussing Trump's claims that the Taliban has seized $83 million worth of U.S. weapons, explains, "We don't normally pay much attention to claims made by the former president, as he mostly just riffs golden oldies. But this is a new claim. A version of this claim also circulates widely on right-leaning social media — that somehow, the Taliban has ended up with $83 billion in U.S. weaponry. Trump, as usual, rounds the number up."

Kessler adds, "The $83 billion number is not invented out of whole cloth. But it reflects all the money spent to train, equip and house the Afghan military and police — so weapons are just a part of that. At this point, no one really knows the value of the equipment that was seized by the Taliban."

The Post journalist notes that the $83 million figure "comes from an estimate in the July 30 quarterly report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) for all spending on the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund since the U.S. invasion in 2001."

According to Kessler, "The $83 billion spent on the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) goes back two decades, including almost $19 billion spent between 2002 and 2009."

Applying the Washington Post's "Pinocchio Test" to Trump, Kessler breaks down that $83 million some more.

Kessler notes, "U.S. military equipment was given to Afghan security forces over two decades. Tanks, vehicles, helicopters and other gear fell into the hands of the Taliban when the U.S.-trained force quickly collapsed…. But the value of the equipment is not more than $80 billion. That's the figure for all of the money spent on training and sustaining the Afghan military over 20 years. The equipment portion of that total is about $24 billion — certainly not small change — but the actual value of the equipment in the Taliban's hands is probably much less than even that amount."

Leaving Afghanistan Shows Wisdom, Not Weakness

The suicide bombing that killed 13 U.S. service members and at least 169 Afghans was an atrocity that evoked horror in Americans of every political persuasion. But among those who want to continue the war, the loss was taken as proof that the U.S. should have persisted in a mission that had previously claimed the lives of more than 2,400 Americans.

Had we been willing to go on spilling American blood to stay in Afghanistan, we would not have had to spill blood leaving it. The logic is peculiar.

But the hawks always find a way to justify endless war. They can't very well pretend that we could win in Afghanistan, now or ever. So they find boundless reasons to criticize the manner of our withdrawal, which was bound to be a messy, dangerous process.

They also resort to hollow cliches. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the administration of "weakness." Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), asserted that "China and Russia will look to capitalize on Biden's weakness." Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass said the outcome "will reinforce questions about U.S. reliability."

Some of our European allies joined the chorus. A Conservative parliamentary leader in Britain said the withdrawal is "the biggest foreign policy disaster since Suez" — as though the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were not gargantuan catastrophes.

Carping about alleged displays of weakness and loss of credibility is the familiar fallback of those trying to sustain a pointless military undertaking. They insist that ending it will have harmful effects on how others perceive us — a claim so vaporous it is impossible to disprove.

Their logic is that if we do something stupid, we have to keep doing it no matter what, because, you know, only weak people repent of their stupidity.

But if committing 20 years — as well as nearly 25,000 American casualties and more than $2 trillion — didn't persuade other governments of our resolve and staying power, it's hard to believe that Year 21 would be a game-changer. Foreigners might instead marvel at our willingness to lavish so much for so long on a mission that did little or nothing to enhance our security. They could deduce that when genuine U.S. interests are at stake, the sky is the limit on what we'd be willing to do.

Biden has shown a dedication to strengthening our alliances that his predecessor did not. President Donald Trump showed much fonder feelings for Russian President Vladimir Putin than for German Chancellor Angela Merkel or French President Emmanuel Macron.

Trump, in fact, bitterly resented our support of NATO. He even raised the possibility of refusing to honor our obligation, under Article 5 of the alliance treaty, to come to the defense of any member of the alliance who was attacked. Privately, he repeatedly expressed his desire to pull out of NATO.

Biden, by contrast, proudly wore a NATO lapel pin to a summit with European leaders in Brussels and declared: "Article 5 we take as a sacred obligation. I want NATO to know America is there." His principal difference with Merkel and Macron at that meeting lay in his desire to take a tougher line against China.

History offers additional evidence that ending a foolish, costly war will not degrade our international standing. Hawkish types said our 1973 withdrawal from Vietnam would speed the march of communism throughout the world. But it somehow failed to prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union, the liberation of Eastern Europe, or the capitalist transformation of China.

Our adversaries have good reason not to test the proposition that the Biden administration is weak. Our military spending, after all, amounts to more than that of the next 11 countries combined. Our Navy has a dominant worldwide reach that no other country can come remotely close to matching.

Our ground forces have decades of combat experience that Russian and Chinese troops lack. Our peerless air power is a deterrent to adversaries from Tehran to Pyongyang.

Ending our involvement in Afghanistan doesn't weaken our posture against our adversaries. It strengthens it, by letting us direct our resources and attention to matters that directly implicate our national security. Biden, for better or worse, is not presiding over a retreat from our role in the world — merely a sensible reshaping of it.

Thursday's bombing was a disaster. But staying in Afghanistan would only have guaranteed more like it.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

VIDEO: Watch Angy Mike Pompeo Flip And Flop On Taliban

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

With the Taliban now in control of Afghanistan, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is vehemently criticizing President Joe Biden for withdrawing U.S. troops from that country — neglecting to mention that Biden was essentially following the plan that Pompeo and former President Donald Trump came up with in 2020. MSNBC's Mehdi Hasan, in response, has posted a video showing how badly Pompeo is now contradicting what he had to say about Afghanistan and the Taliban last year.

Some right-wing Republicans have at least been consistent in their views on Afghanistan. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and former National Security John Bolton have been slamming the Trump/Pompeo plan for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan as badly flawed and saying that Biden and his advisers were wrong to go along with it. But Pompeo, as Hasan's video demonstrates, is now contradicting much of what he had to say in 2020.

The video shows Pompeo, in 2020, praising "the senior Taliban leadership" for "working diligently to reduce violence," followed by the Pompeo of 2021 saying of the Taliban, "These are butchers…. These are evil people" and telling Fox News' Chris Wallace, "We never trusted the Taliban."

Pompeo is seen in 2020 saying with confidence, "There are a series of commitments the Taliban have made. We have every expectation they will follow through on them." And Pompeo, in 2020, expressed confidence that the Taliban would "break" their "relationship" with al-Qaeda and "work alongside" the United States "to destroy, deny resources to and have al-Qaeda depart from that place." But in a 2021 clip included in Hasan's video, Pompeo complains, "We have allowed al-Qaeda to run free and wild all around Afghanistan."

The video ends on a mocking note with a clip of Pompeo angrily saying, "No, I'm not defensive at all."

Here are some responses to Hasan's video:

Billionaire Ex-Blackwater Boss Exploiting Chaos And Misery In Kabul

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

With Afghanistan having fallen to the Taliban and countless Afghans desperately trying to leave the country, former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince has found a way to profit from the crisis, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The paper's Dion Nissenbaum reports, "Mr. Prince, whose Blackwater guards were convicted of killing civilians in 2014 while providing security for Americans during the Iraq War, said he was charging each passenger $6500 to get them safely into the airport and on a plane, and it would cost extra to get people who have been trapped in their homes to the airport. It remained unclear whether Mr. Prince had the wherewithal to carry out his plans."

Prince is the brother of Betsy DeVos, former secretary of education in the Trump Administration. When Donald Trump was president, Prince had an idea for getting U.S. troops out of Afghanistan: replacing them with a private security force. But that idea fell through.

Warren Binford, a University of Colorado law professor who has been helping with evacuation efforts in Afghanistan, told the Journal, "It's total chaos. What's happening is that we're seeing a massive underground railroad operation where, instead of running for decades, it's literally running for a matter of hours, or days."

The United States' 20-year war in Afghanistan started in 2001 following al-Qaeda's 9/11 terrorist attacks and has existed under four U.S. presidents: George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and now, Joe Biden. Trump and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo worked out an agreement with the Taliban for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and Biden followed through on the Trump/Pompeo agreement — although at a slower pace.

Mother Jones' Inae Oh, reporting on Prince's Afghanistan activities, reports, "Prince's plans to capitalize on tragedy come amid a broader effort by aid organizations to rescue as many people as possible as the U.S. struggles to process visas and evacuate both Americans still in the country and the tens of thousands of Afghans who worked from the U.S. government over the past 20 years of war…. Prince kept busy in recent years by overseeing operations to spy on so-called Trump enemies in government while misleading Congress in the Russia investigation. Now he's back, scrambling to make one last buck from the crisis in Afghanistan."