Pompeo gets a new deputy amid speculation of a Senate run

Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a media availability at the State Department, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has a new deputy, assuring a degree of continuity at the helm of U.S. diplomacy should he resign for a potential Senate bid.

The Senate voted overwhelmingly 90-3 on Thursday to confirm Stephen Biegun to be deputy secretary of state amid ongoing speculation that Pompeo will step down to run for the Senate from his home state of Kansas next year. Only three Democratic senators, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, voted against the nomination.

Biegun’s confirmation fills a vacancy that had opened earlier this month when current deputy, John Sullivan, was confirmed to be the new ambassador to Russia. Biegun, a former Ford Motor Company executive who currently serves as the U.S. special representative for North Korea, is widely expected to fill the secretary of state job at least on an interim basis if Pompeo departs.

Concerns that Pompeo’s possible departure would leave the State Department temporarily in the hands of the third-ranking diplomat, career foreign service officer David Hale, were partly behind legislative intrigue over Biegun’s nomination. Hale had testified in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Iran hawks in Congress leveraged those concerns to drop a legislative hold on the Biegun nomination to win a key concession from the Trump administration that could help their bid to kill the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

To secure Biegun’s confirmation, the State Department agreed to release a portion of an internal legal opinion that says the U.S. has the right to demand that all U.N. sanctions on Iran be reinstated, despite Trump pulling the U.S. out of the nuclear deal. Leading Iran hawk, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, then lifted a hold he had placed on Biegun.

That drama raised new questions about Pompeo’s intentions. A former congressman and Trump’s first CIA director, Pompeo has been weighing a Senate campaign in his home state for months, though officials say no final decision has been made.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

CBS47 On Your Side

Do you have a problem that you need help solving? Contact CBS47 and let us be On Your Side.

Phone: 559-761-0383
Email: OnYourSide@cbsfresno.com

Don’t Miss

Best of the Valley
Sunday Morning Matters
MedWatch Today
Hispanic Heritage
Bulldog Insider: The Podcast
The Valley's Armenia
Pros Who Know

Images from Armenia

Small patients in Armenia
Yerevan by night.
Dr. Jeff Thomas delivers.
Dr. Jeff Thomas delivers in Gyumri.
Doctors unpack medical supplies from The Central Valley.
Fresno Medical Mission at work.
Medical Supplies being unloaded.
Fresno Medical Mission at the ready.
KSEE24 crew witnesses the miracle of life in Gyumri, Armenia.
Life saving work of Central Valley surgeons in Armenia.
Ribbon cutting on new surgical center in Ashtarak Armenia. Fresno donors made this dream come true.
KSEE24 on assignment with the Fresno Medical Mission
Honorary Consulate to Armenia Berj Apkarian explains the crisis facing one hospital.
KSEE24's Stefani Booroojian and Kevin Mahan at the meeting with President Bako Sahakyan.
Medical Meeting in Artsakh.
The President of Artsakh meets with the Fresno Medical Mission.
Learning modern medicine techniques with the Fresno Medical Mission in surgery.
Leaning in for a look. Dr. Brien Tonkinson holds class and helps a patient in Armenia.
Fresno Medical Mission cares on one of the smallest patients in the region. Six-year old Yanna receives life-changing better breathing surgery.