The life of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the West Point valedictorian and former CIA director who's in hot water amid an inspector general scandal

Leah Millis/ReutersCentral Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo testifies during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on ‘Worldwide Threats’ on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 13, 2018.
  • In 2018, Mike Pompeo left the CIA to become President Donald Trump’s secretary of state.
  • Over the last two years, Pompeo has been in the spotlight for his relationship with Kim Jong Un, Trump’s impeachment trial, and the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
  • Now Pompeo has made headlines again, for urging Trump to fire the inspector general for the US State Department, Steven Linick, amid reports that Linick was conducting three separate investigations into Pompeo.
  • These photos take a look back at Pompeo’s career, from his time as a student at West Point, to the nation’s 70th secretary of state.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Mike Pompeo is in the spotlight again.

First serving as President Donald Trump’s CIA director, he took over as the nation’s 70th secretary of state after Rex Tillerson was ousted from the position.

As one of Trump’s staunchest allies, Pompeo has undergone varying levels of scrutiny. The secretary of state has been involved in controversy surrounding the impeachment inquiry, the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the coronavirus pandemic, and now, the firing of his department’s watchdog, Steven Linick.

Originally from Orange County, California, Pompeo has had a long-winded career in law, business, and public service.

Before embarking on his position in the executive branch, Pompeo represented Kansas in the House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017. He is a graduate of both West Point and Harvard Law School.

Here’s a look at Pompeo’s career, so far, in photos.


Pompeo was raised in in Orange County, California. He attended Los Amigos High School and played basketball for the varsity squad. “Mike was the type of guy who was just born smart,” childhood friend John Reed told the OC Register.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP Images

Source: The Washington Post
,Forbes
, The OC Register


Growing up, Pompeo said he was influenced by the works of Ayn Rand. He read “The Fountainhead” at the age of 15, according to the Washington Post. “One of the very first serious books I read when I was growing up was Atlas Shrugged, and it really had an impact on me,” he told Human Events.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Source: The Washington Post
,Forbes
, The OC Register
,Human Events


Pompeo left California to attend the US Military Academy at West Point. He majored in mechanical engineering and graduated first in his class in 1986.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Source: Politico
, The Hill, Newsweek


He served in the US Army, ultimately reaching the rank of captain. His service was predominantly spent “patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall,” according to his CIA bio.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Source: Politico
, CIA


He left the army and attended Harvard Law School, graduating in 1994. Pompeo was editor of the Harvard Law Review and worked as a research assistant for professor and former Vatican ambassador Mary Ann Glendon.

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Source: Harvard Law Today


Upon graduating, he went to work for Washington firm Williams & Connolly, before leaving for the business world.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Source: Harvard Law Today
,The Washington Post


As a law student, Pompeo had initially been “bent on going into politics,” according to Glendon. “When he went into business instead, I felt real regret to see yet another young person of great integrity and ability swerve from his original path.”

REUTERS/Leah Millis

Source: Harvard Law Today
,The Washington Post


Pompeo left law to found Thayer Aerospace in Wichita with some West Point classmates. The company has been since renamed Nex-Tech Aerospace and acquired by Gridiron Capital.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Source: Gridiron Company
,The Washington Post
,The Wichita Eagle


Pompeo left Thayer Aerospace in 2006 and became president of oilfield equipment company Sentry International.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Source: Gridiron Company
,The Washington Post
,The Wichita Eagle


He also served as a trustee of the conservative Flint Hills Public Policy Institute, which has since been renamed the Kansas Policy Institute, according to the Washington Post.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Source: The Washington Post


When it came time for the 2010 Kansas Republican primary for the 4th District Congressional seat, Pompeo decided to run. Glendon told the Harvard Law Bulletin her former assistant “waited until he and his wife, Susan, had raised their son and assured a sound financial footing for the family.”

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Source: Vox, The Wichita Eagle
,Harvard Law Bulletin


Pompeo told the Post his business experience prompted him to run for public office. “I have run two small businesses in Kansas, and I have seen how government can crush entrepreneurism. That’s why I ran for Congress. It just so happens that there are a lot of people in south central Kansas who agree with me on that.”

Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Source: The Washington Post


Pompeo also had some assistance from some allies back from his days at Thayer Aerospace. Koch Venture Capital had invested in his business, and Koch Industries became a major contributor throughout his political career.

Eric Thayer/Reuters

Source: The Washington Post
,Centre for Responsive Politics


In 2016, Pompeo was the top recipient of Koch Industries’ contributions, receiving a total of $US71,100 that year. Koch Industries and its employees contributed a total of $US375,500 to Pompeo’s candidacies across his tenure in Congress.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Source: The Washington Post
,Centre for Responsive Politics


During the 2016 presidential election, a Pompeo spokesperson said the Kansas representative would “support the nominee of the Republican Party because Hillary Clinton cannot be president of the United States.”

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Source: Business Insider
,Reuters
, McClatchy


After winning the presidency, the president-elect nominated Pompeo to take over the CIA on November 18, 2016. The Senate confirmed the nomination on January 23, 2017, and Pompeo was subsequently sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence. Trump also appointed the CIA director to his Cabinet.

Associated Press/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Source: Business Insider
,Reuters
, McClatchy


Pompeo had an estimated net worth of $US266,510 in 2016, according to the Centre for Responsive Politics. McClatchy reported he earned a $US185,100 annual salary as CIA director.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Source: McClatchy
, Centre for Responsive Politics


In June 2017, Pompeo told MSNBC that he frequently speaks to Trump about North Korea, saying, “I hardly ever escape a day at the White House without the President asking me about North Korea and how it is that the United States is responding to that threat.”

Source: Business Insider


His tenure hasn’t been without controversy. When Pompeo told the audience at a national security summit that Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election didn’t affect its outcome, the CIA released a statement clarifying his remarks: “The intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed, and the director did not intend to suggest that it had.”

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Source: Business Insider


On April 26, 2018, Pompeo was sworn in as the new secretary of state after Trump ousted Tillerson.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Source: CNN


In the early stages of his new position, Pompeo frequently met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The Secretary of State also made visits to Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.

Tuan Mark/Getty ImagesU.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, speaks at a news conference while U.S. President Donald Trump looks on following his second summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on February 28, 2019 in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Source: CNN


In July 2019, Pompeo announced the formation of “The Commission on Unalienable Rights,” a committee of academics, philosophers, and activists, that are meant to advise him on human rights issues.

Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesU.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media in the briefing room at the State Department, on November 26, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Source: CNN, US State Department


In late September 2019, Pompeo entered a ring of controversy when he became the first official to be subpoenaed by three House committees at the beginning of the impeachment inquiry against Trump.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider, CNN


In October, Pompeo became further entangled in the impeachment inquiry when he admitted to being on the phone call in which Trump urged the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden’s son.

Anastasia Vlasova/Getty ImagesUS Sec. of State Mike Pompeo and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky

Source: Business Insider


Pompeo criticised the impeachment hearings saying, “I am concerned with aspects of your request … that can be understood only as an attempt to intimidate, bully, and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State, including several career Foreign Service Officers, whom the committee is now targeting.”

Associated PressSecretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaks during a news conference at the State Department (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Source: Business Insider


But over the course of the trial, Pompeo received backlash for issuing a series of misleading claims about his involvement in the Ukraine call. Then, at the start of 2020, he received heat for pushing Trump to assassinate a top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani.

Win McNamee/Getty ImagesU.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the U.S. State Department January 07, 2020 in Washington, DC. When questioned about the killing of Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, Pompeo said ‘It was the right decision, we got it right.’

Source: Business Insider


Pompeo has also made controversial remarks about the coronavirus crisis. At the early stages of the pandemic, Pompeo echoed Trump’s claims that the virus came from a lab in China, despite a lack of evidence to support his statements.

ANDREW HARNIK/POOL/AFP via Getty ImagesUS Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pauses while speaking at a news conference at the State Department on April 29, 2020, in Washington, DC.

Source: Business Insider


Now, Pompeo has entered the spotlight for urging Trump to fire the the inspector general for the State Department, Steven A. Linick. He has been accused of pushing out Linick at a time when the watchdog was reportedly in the middle of three investigations against Pompeo.

Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesU.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media in the briefing room at the State Department, on November 26, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Source: Business Insider


The investigations against Pompeo reportedly include a mishandling of taxpayer funds, fast-tracking an arms sale to Saudi Arabia, and failing to report workplace violence. Pompeo has called allegations that he retaliated against Linick “patently false.”

Alex Wong/Getty ImagesU.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens during a cabinet meeting in the East Room of the White House on May 19, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Source: Business Insider

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