The contradictory claims from Secretary of State Pompeo and President Trump blaming Russia and China respectively for carrying out what’s been described by many as one of the most intrusive cyber espionage operations against America in history are confusing for most observers but can be better understood if they accept that Pompeo might have some ulterior political motives for pushing his version of events.
Trump vs. Pompeo
Many people are confused after President Trump contradicted Secretary of State Pompeo’s claim that Russia was behind what’s been described by many as one of the most intrusive cyber espionage operations against America in history after he publicly suggested that China might have been the culprit instead and even downplayed the significance of this extensive security breach. This isn’t a game of “5D chess” like some QAnon enthusiasts might imagine, but one of the most visible signs yet that those two don’t always see eye-to-eye on some issues of grand strategic importance. In fact, it even strongly suggests that Pompeo might have some ulterior motives for pushing his version of events that could be related to his 2024 presidential ambitions.
Deep State Factionalism
There’s no denying that factionalism exists within the US’ permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”), which dramatically intensified during the Trump Administration and will predictably continue during the Biden one if the latter succeeds in seizing power, so discussing Pompeo and Trump’s differences in this respect shouldn’t be taboo. The Secretary of State is cut from the cloth of the “deep state” itself after previously being tasked by Trump to lead the CIA of all structures while the President continues to present himself as being against that same “deep state” establishment. It could have been that he “trusted” Pompeo to “reform” the CIA according to his vision, but in any case, those two still have natural differences.
This partly explains why Pompeo jumped on the establishment’s anti-Russian bandwagon by blaming Moscow for the latest cyber espionage scandal. He’s part and parcel of the “deep state”, therefore making him prone to accepting its interpretations of events. Even if he himself doesn’t seriously believe that Russia was responsible (whether due to there being no publicly presented evidence of this or because he might not believe whatever the CIA could have fabricated to this effect), he understands the importance of going with the flow for “stability’s” sake. After all, pushing back against the “deep state” can be very dangerous, and Pompeo might not want to take the risk of “betraying” his “former” employer on an issue of such importance to it as this one is.
Was Trump’s Trust Misplaced?
Trump, however, has no such compunctions about calling the “deep state” out at every opportunity that he gets. It’s the reason why so many Americans voted for him in the last two elections. For reasons of political realism, he probably couldn’t “drain the swamp” as immediately or to the extent as he initially wished, hence why he’s chummed up so closely with Pompeo these past few years. It’s not due to the adage of “keeping one’s enemies close”, but more than likely the result of simple pragmatism since Trump seems to personally like Pompeo a lot better than other “swamp creatures” and thus “trusts” comparatively more.
Because of his “swamp” origins after being installed in the CIA by Trump prior to his nomination as Secretary of State, Pompeo can’t ever fully be trusted no matter what the President might think. It was a risky gamble to try to place someone who he regarded as “his own” (at least ideologically speaking insomuch as he used to be a Tea Party Republican) into that structure and hope that he isn’t changed throughout the process, but he did it anyhow because he probably felt that it was the “lesser evil” available to him at the time. Now, however, Pompeo is showing that he’ll side with the “deep state” against Trump on Russia instead of take his boss’ side.
A Zero-Sum Standoff
That’s not to say that China is the culprit either since it could possibly be North Korea or someone else for all that anyone knows since no public evidence has been presented to back up either figures’ claims, but just to point out the clear contradiction between them. Trump has a track record of blaming China for everything that goes wrong with the US just like the “deep state” blames Russia for the same, so neither of their claims are credible on the surface. Nevertheless, due to the grand strategic divergences between them, no “compromise” is possible unless one or the other submits to their counterpart, which isn’t likely in the near term at least.
Pompeo probably won’t backtrack on blaming Russia the same as Trump isn’t going to do an about-face and suddenly say that China is completely innocent after strongly implying the opposite over the weekend. Those two, however, will debate the issue behind the closed doors as each tries to convince the other to reverse their public statements, which stands little chance of success. Trump needs the world to believe that China was responsible in order to improve the odds of Biden continuing his New Cold War policy of “containing” it while Pompeo must hold firm on blaming Russia in case he decides to run for president in 2024.
The Secretary of State is already one of “America First’s” main icons behind only Trump and perhaps also Pence. Plus he has enormous support from Trump’s “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) base for all that he’s done abroad in his boss’ name. Even so, however, Pompeo probably wouldn’t be able to resist the “deep state” as much as Trump hitherto has (albeit imperfectly of course), especially not after having previously served as the head of the CIA. The only way that he could help the “swamp” swap figureheads should Biden seize power but prove to be immensely unpopular for various reasons is if he submits to its anti-Russian narrative.
Even then, however, he might be brushed aside in favor of Kamala or whoever else, but there’s still some strategic wisdom in the “deep state” keeping the possibility of a “controlled opposition” candidate such as Pompeo viable just in case the MAGA movement proves impossible to ignore across the next four years. Nobody knows whether Trump would run for office again in 2024 if he leaves the White House next month like the Mainstream Media hopes that he’ll do, but even if he does run, then Pompeo could possibly break with him to divide the (then-former) president’s base and thus raise the prospects of a Democrat victory.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with Pompeo’s domestic political outlook, the very fact that he so confidently blamed Russia for the latest cyber-espionage scandal only to be publicly contradicted by none other than Trump himself shortly thereafter on Twitter shows that there are serious differences between the two over the US’ grand strategic vision. Pompeo, just like his “deep state” CIA allies, wants to blame Russia whenever it’s convenient to do so while Trump prefers to lay the blame for everything entirely on China. The Secretary of State has blamed China for a lot of things before, which is why not doing so this time is very suspicious.
To reaffirm what was previously said in order to avoid any misunderstandings, this doesn’t mean that China is guilty or should be accused, but just that attention should be paid to Pompeo breaking with Trump’s “tradition” of blaming the People’s Republic whenever something goes wrong. This time, the Secretary of State jumped ship by pointing the finger at Russia, only to be contradicted by his boss. This observation proves that those two certainly don’t see eye-to-eye on this very important issue, which confirms the author’s suspicious of creeping “deep state” tensions between them which might be motivated by Pompeo’s 2024 presidential ambitions.
A Curious Question
The increasingly visible differences between Trump and Pompeo might somehow be smoothed over or not even matter all that much if the administration departs from power next month like the Mainstream Media hopes that it’ll do, but it’s still a trend that shouldn’t be ignored in any case. There’s no “5D chess” theory to explain why Trump publicly contradicted — and therefore embarrassed — his own Secretary of State. Every other time that he’s done this to one of his subordinates prompted talk about a growing rift between them, yet for some strange reason, few are discussing this angle which naturally leads to the curious question of why that is.