Meeks, Pompeo Get in Heated Exchange Over Diplomatic Security

New York Dem repeatedly invokes Hillary Clinton while attacking Pompeo

May 23, 2018

Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks (N.Y.) got into a heated exchange with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over the latter's focus on diplomatic security during a congressional hearing on Wednesday.

Pompeo was testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on a range of topics when Meeks brought up the issue of diplomatic security, which includes protecting American diplomatic personnel and information.

Meeks first chastised Pompeo for not being courteous as a member of Congress to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she testified before the House Select Committee on Benghazi in 2015. The New York Democrat said that Pompeo criticized Clinton at the time for not prioritizing diplomatic security, before accusing the current secretary of state of not caring about the issue himself, noting that he did not mention it during his confirmation hearing or on Wednesday.

"Should we conclude that, because you've not mentioned it one time, not once, should we conclude based upon that fact that you do not care about diplomatic security?" Meeks asked Pompeo.

"No, you should not conclude that," Pompeo responded. He then attempted to respond to Meeks' accusation, apparently taking offense, but the congressman would not let Pompeo speak.

The two men began talking over each other in angry tones, with Meeks saying he would take Pompeo at his word but had limited time and the secretary explaining that the first briefing he received as a nominee was on diplomatic security.

"I take diplomatic security very seriously. Never make an accusation [inaudible]," Pompeo said.

"Oh, now the real secretary is coming out," Meeks added as things became testy.

Committee chairman Ed Royce (R., Calif.) then intervened and said Pompeo should have a chance to respond—to which Meeks responded, "He did not do that with Secretary Clinton, let me tell you that!"—before the congressman proceeded with his questioning.

Meeks said that it does matter how much money is appropriated for diplomatic security and that funds for it decreased when President Donald Trump entered office.

"So where is the concern now of this administration about diplomatic security?" Meeks asked.

"Diplomatic security is not about dollars expended. It's about delivering real security," Pompeo responded. "It's about getting the right outcomes. It's about having the right people in place. It's about being thoughtful about where you put people."

"We're going to take risks," he continued. "We're going to be an expeditionary State Department. I think President Trump demands that; I think each of you do as well. But I'll take a backseat to no one with respect to caring about and protecting the people that we—"

"Nor did Hillary Clinton take a backseat to no one for what she did about diplomatic security in this country!" Meeks interjected.

Royce then used his gavel to signal that Meeks' time for questioning had expired.