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Mike Pompeo, a Wichita Republican from 'central casting,' set to become secretary of state

Jonathan Shorman, Hunter Woodall and Lindsay Wise, The Wichita Eagle on

Published in News & Features

WICHITA, Kan. -- As a Kansas congressman, Mike Pompeo developed a reputation as a brash, hard-line conservative. He was quick to butt heads with Democrats and made a name for himself pursuing Hillary Clinton over her handling of the Benghazi attack as U.S. secretary of state.

He's now poised to take over that same position -- the next step in a meteoric rise from Wichita businessman to a man potentially fourth in line for the presidency in less than a decade.

President Donald Trump ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday and named Pompeo, the current CIA director, as his replacement. The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate must still confirm the appointment.

Trump, in quick remarks outside the White House Tuesday morning, said Pompeo has "tremendous energy, tremendous intellect. We're always on the same wavelength. The relationship has been very good. ... I think Mike Pompeo will be a truly great secretary of state."

Mark Kahrs, the Kansas Republican national committeeman, said he thinks Trump "trusts (Pompeo's) judgment, respects his intellect, his military background and I think they see eye to eye on a lot of the world issues. Whereas the president and Rex Tillerson did not. And I think the president deserves to have a secretary of state that supports his agenda internationally and nationally, and I think he'll have that with Mike Pompeo."

Pompeo has a take-charge personality, said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. He said Pompeo has done a good job at the CIA, where "the best news ... is that there isn't any news and that there's no leaks."

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Pompeo often delivers briefings in person to Trump, a sign that he has the president's trust, Roberts said.

Pompeo was born in California. He studied mechanical engineering at West Point and served in the Army. He holds a degree from Harvard Law School.

He moved to Wichita in the mid-'90s, where he helped found Thayer Aerospace. He also served as president of Sentry International, an oil production equipment company.

Pompeo rode a wave of tea party anger into Congress into 2010. He was sharply critical of President Obama's administration, including Clinton's handling of the September 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including an ambassador.


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