Donald Trump trashed Mike Pompeo’s new aide as a ‘major loser’
This story is published in a content partnership with POLITICO. It was originally reported by Alex Thompson and Eliana Johnson on politico.com on November 27, 2018.
Mary Kissel often took a dim view of US President Donald Trump’s foreign policy.
As a Wall Street Journal editorial writer, she tweeted about his “frightening ignorance”, criticised his approach on Syria and China, and said Putin “scored a great propaganda victory” at the Helsinki summit in July.
And Trump swatted back. After Kissel said in a March 2016 appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that Trump has “no principles, he has no policies”, the president counter punched on Twitter.
“Major loser!” then-candidate Trump wrote, adding that Kissel had “no clue!”
"@SirHatchporch: Mary Kissel is an SNL character, right? She's not a real person, right? #MorningJoe" She is a major loser - no clue!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2016
Now, Kissel is US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s new senior adviser for policy and strategic messaging.
“We could not be more thrilled to have her on board,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a November 15 statement announcing her arrival.
.@statedeptspox welcomes Mary Kissel to the State Department serving as a Senior Advisor to @SecPompeo for policy and strategic messaging. pic.twitter.com/qhrtFbbjSg
— Department of State (@StateDept) November 15, 2018
It is unclear whether the president - if he is even aware of Kissel’s arrival - feels the same way.
“Trump would lose his mind if he knew about this,” a former administration official who has witnessed Trump react to past criticism told POLITICO.
While other foreign policy experts have found themselves blacklisted for trashing Trump, Kissel is Pompeo’s second recent hire who has done so.
In August, he appointed Jim Jeffrey - who joined dozens of Republican Party foreign policy insiders in signing a letter denouncing Trump - as special representative for Syria engagement.
Whether the hires signal a kind of amnesty for former Trump critics is unclear. Neither Kissel nor Jeffrey have taken jobs requiring Senate confirmation hearings that might bring their criticisms to the president’s attention.
But another former administration official, fearing possible subversion within the ranks, called the hirings “a recipe for disaster” because they offer “a welcome sign to all never-Trumpers and establishment Republicans that they have a home in this administration.”
In a statement to POLITICO, a senior State Department official downplayed Kissel’s commentary about the commander in chief.
“Mary’s social media posts reflected her role as a member of The Wall Street Journal editorial board. As she has said previously when asked similar questions, her job there was to analyse and write about policy. As a member of the editorial board, Mary strongly endorsed this administration’s policies on Iran, Afghanistan, tax cuts, energy policy, regulatory reform, judicial nominations, and other issues. She is proud to serve this President and Secretary Pompeo,” the official said.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment about whether Trump was aware of Kissel’s hiring.
During the 2016 campaign, Kissel was one of many conservative media figures sharply critical of Trump’s candidacy.
During one April 2016 Morning Joe appearance, co-host Mika Brzezinski told Kissel she was “getting a huge feeling from you that you are seething with rage about his success.” (Kissel responded that the Journal’s editorial page only endorsed policies, not candidates.)
Even after Trump won the election - and as the Journal’s editorial board largely embraced the Trump presidency - Kissel continued to criticise the president.
In March, for instance, Kissel blasted the president for agreeing to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un without preconditions.
“Granting Kim Jong Un a meeting with a U.S. president is a major concession,” she wrote on Twitter. “Legitimizes him, in return for nothing,” she said, adding “[W]rong, wrong, wrong”.
And her take on Trump’s Helsinki summit with Putin was a sharply at odds with that of her current boss.
“Here’s what the world needs to know: this administration has been tougher [on Russia] than any other past administration,” Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee shortly after the leaders met.
Kissel brings a background in finance and journalism to her job, having worked at Goldman Sachs before joining The Wall Street Journal, where she held perches in London, Hong Kong, and New York.
She is the third veteran of the Journal’s conservative editorial page to find a prominent home in Trump’s administration.
They include her former colleague, David Feith, who joined the State Department’s policy planning staff last year, and Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White.
Trump’s top National Security Council official for Asia, Matthew Pottinger, is a former reporter for the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper.
Former colleagues, including those who have been critical of the president, praised her hire.
“Mary is incredibly smart and brilliantly well spoken and is going to be a credit to the Department of State,” said New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, the Journal’s former deputy editorial page editor.
Trump has vetoed personnel decisions based on criticism of him during the campaign.
In the first weeks of the administration, he intervened to nix former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s pick for deputy secretary, former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams, because he had said that neither Trump nor Hillary Clinton were fit to be president, POLITICO reported at the time.
Other Trump officials have surmounted the cardinal sin of criticising the president.
Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Flores did so by offering the president a pledge of loyalty in a personal meeting, The Washington Post first reported earlier this year.
But the Post did not report that Trump was still upset after the conversation, according to a former administration official present at the meeting.
The president, this person said, wanted an outright apology, which Flores did not offer. Trump let Sessions hire her anyway.
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