Trump’s new secretary of state pick draws concern from activist groups

President Donald Trump‘s nomination of CIA Director Mike Pompeo as the new secretary of state has drawn the ire of a number of activist groups.

A Muslim civil rights group slammed what they called Pompeo’s Islamaphobic views, including his past support of an organization they describe as a “notorious anti-Muslim hate group.” A hate group watchdog organization called his ties to that group “extremely alarming.” And numerous environmental activist groups took issue with Pompeo’s denial of climate change and his outspoken defense of the Koch brothers.

Pompeo, who was named as Trump’s pick as a replacement for now-outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, isn’t the only new nominee raising eyebrows.

Gina Haspel has been tapped to replace Pompeo in the Cabinet-level version of musical chairs, and her elevation to be Pompeo’s replacement as CIA director has prompted questions about her role in the use of torture at a so-called CIA black site.

Both Pompeo and Haspel will have to be confirmed to their new roles by the Senate.

Concerns over ties to anti-Muslim group

The Southern Poverty Law Center first expressed concerns about Pompeo’s connections back when he was named as Trump’s pick for CIA director during the transition.

They cited the now-former congressman’s support from ACT for America, a group the SPLC calls “the largest anti-Muslim group in America.”

When Pompeo was named as Trump’s CIA pick, ACT for America’s founder Brigitte Gabriel sent out a press release saying he had been “a steadfast ally of ours” and was given the group’s highest honor, the National Security Eagle Award for 2016.

In light of Trump’s announcement of Pompeo’s new role, which, if confirmed, would make him the fourth in the presidential line of succession, the SPLC said that Trump is “playing right into the hands of the radical anti-Muslim movement in the U.S. and abroad.”

“At a time when we’re seeing hate groups have unprecedented access to the White House, Pompeo’s ties to anti-Muslim hate groups are extremely alarming. This new position gives anti-Muslim extremists another ally in a high place,” said Heidi Beirch, the director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project.

“Pompeo will now be responsible for shaping American foreign policy that will likely have harmful effects on Muslim Americans and Muslims across the world,” Beirich said in a statement released Tuesday.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a statement citing the same examples for Pompeo, sounding the alarm on Haspel as well.

“Those, like Mr. Pompeo, who have expressed Islamophobic views and have been associated with an anti-Muslim hate group, or like Ms. Haspel, who personally oversaw the torture of detainees, should have no role in our nation’s government, let alone at the highest levels of policy-making,” CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad said in a statement.

“These appointments have the potential to harm our nation’s image and our relations with key players in the international community,” he said.

Pompeo faced two questions about the topic during his CIA confirmation hearing in January 2017, to which he responded that he planned to continue and grow the agency’s relationships with Muslim partners.

He was also asked if he would commit to being an advocate for all of the members of the CIA, including Muslim men and women, and Pompeo replied that he would.

PHOTO: CIA Director nominee Congressman Michael Pompeo is sworn in prior to testifying during his confirmation hearing before Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on Jan. 12, 2017.Shawn Thew/EPA FILE
CIA Director nominee Congressman Michael Pompeo is sworn in prior to testifying during his confirmation hearing before Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on Jan. 12, 2017.

Challenges about climate change

When asked during the last confirmation hearing if he believed NASA’s findings of climate change being caused by human activities, Pompeo demurred.

“I frankly as the director of CIA would prefer today not to get into the details of climate debate and science. It seems my role is going to be so different and unique from that. It is going to be to work alongside warriors, keeping Americans safe,” Pompeo said at the time.

Now, however, if confirmed as the country’s top diplomat, Pompeo would have a leading role in international treaties and accords relating to climate change, among other topics.

Environmental groups, like the grassroots climate change activists, have expressed concerns about both his perceived lack of belief in the science of the issue and his ties to the Republican megadonor Koch brothers.

“We’ve gone from Exxon’s CEO [Tillerson] to the Koch brothers’ most loyal lapdog. Pompeo received over a million oil and gas dollars during his political career, has deep ties to the Kochs, and is a climate denier to the core,” said May Boeve, the executive director of, in a statement on Tuesday.

The Center for Responsive Politics notes that throughout his political career, the industry with the most donations to Pompeo was the oil and gas industry, and the biggest individual contributor was Koch Industries.

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