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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

During a recent interview on an ABC News program, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was asked about the reported execution of North Korean negotiators. (Photo: ABC News via Mediaite/screenshot)

Why Mike Pompeo Smirked When Asked If North Korea Executed Negotiators

"It does appear that the next time we have serious conversations, my counterpart will be someone else," said the secretary of state

Christopher Brauchli

"Suffer me that I may speak, and after I have spoken, mock on."
The Book of Job, 21:3

No wonder Mike Pompeo awkwardly laughed or, as it was described by some observers, “smirked,” when asked about the reports of the execution of four of the people with whom Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo had been negotiating a few shorts months ago. Their roles might have been reversed.

Mr. Pompeo knows that those negotiators work for the same kind of manipulative, corrupt, and unpredictable tyrant as he. Mr. Pompeo smirked because he knows that it was only luck of the draw that he works for Mr. Trump, who lacks the ability, if not the wish, to have those who displease him shot.

The smirk made its appearance when Mr. Pompeo was being interviewed on a Sunday news show, and was asked for his reaction to reports that life had not gone well for four of the people he had gotten to know during the two sessions North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump had conducted over the preceding 12 months.

The first session had been a phenomenal success and the second, although cut short, did not extinguish the flame of love that warmed Mr. Trumps’ heart whenever he thought of Mr. Kim.

After the first meeting in Singapore in June 2018, Mr. Trump said at a news conference that he and Mr. Kim had “developed a very special bond. People are going to be very impressed. People are going to be very happy... I think our whole relationship with North Korea and the Korean Peninsula is going to be a very much different situation than it has in the past.” Describing Mr. Kim, Mr. Trump said he was “a very talented man.”

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in September 2018 and making reference to the historic meeting, Mr. Trump said in the manner of a child explaining the child’s affection for a person of whom the child’s parents disapprove: “He likes me, I like him. We get along. He wrote me two of the most beautiful letters. When I showed one of the letters—just one—to [Japanese] Prime Minister Abe, he said: 'This is actually a groundbreaking letter.'”

Prior to the February 2019 meeting in Singapore, Mr. Trump said of his relationship with Mr. Kim: “It’s a very interesting thing to say, but I’ve developed a very, very good relationship. We’ll see what that means. But he’s never had a relationship with anybody from this country and hasn’t had lots of relationships anywhere.”

Notwithstanding Mr. Trump’s ardor, the February 2019 summit was cut short by Mr. Trump because he and Mr. Kim could not come to an agreement on the United States lifting economic sanctions and on North Korea cutting back its nuclear arsenal. Mr. Trump explained that “I’d much rather do it [a deal] right than do it fast.”

Mr. Pompeo, the secretary of state who accompanied Mr. Trump on the trip, commented on the early termination of the summit, saying, “We are certainly closer today [to an agreement] than we were 36 hours ago, and we were closer then, than we were a month or two before that.”

Success in negotiations with North Korea is a bit like beauty—it is in the eye of the beholder. What unconfirmed reports say happened in North Korea following the second meeting suggests that Mr. Kim was not quite as pleased with its results as Mr. Pompeo had been. If reports are accurate, Mr. Kim attributed the failure of the talks to four of his representatives and to make sure such an embarrassing failure would not happen again, the negotiators were lined up in front of a firing squad and executed.

During an interview on an ABC News program, Mr. Pompeo was asked about the reported execution and in response, he simply smiled or, as some described it, smirked, while declining to add anything to the reports but saying, “It does appear that the next time we have serious conversations, my counterpart will be someone else.” Here is why Mr. Pompeo smirked.

He is mildly amused by the fact that those negotiators were working for a man whose retributive actions towards his negotiators was so violent. Mr. Pompeo knows that those negotiators work for the same kind of manipulative, corrupt, and unpredictable tyrant as he. Mr. Pompeo smirked because he knows that it was only luck of the draw that he works for Mr. Trump, who lacks the ability, if not the wish, to have those who displease him shot. If he could, he would. He can’t. Mr. Trump’s remedies for dealing with those who displease him is to utter the famous two-word phrase: “You’re fired.”

Mr. Pompeo smirked because he knows how much those who were shot would have preferred to be part of the corrupt Trump White House team rather than the corrupt North Korean entourage, and he knows how lucky he is to be working for his nut job instead of the other one.

There is in truth, little to smirk about when the person who is smirking works for Trump instead of Kim. Both men are beneath contempt.


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Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli is a Common Dreams columnist and lawyer known nationally for his work. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Colorado School of Law where he served on the Board of Editors of the Rocky Mountain Law Review. For political commentary see his web page at humanraceandothersports.com.

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