Trump may have played Senate Democrats by sending Pompeo to North Korea

  • President Donald Trump sending CIA director Mike Pompeo to North Korea to conduct diplomacy while Pompeo awaits Senate confirmation looks to have put Democrats in a tough spot.
  • Trump's dismissal of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and a packed schedule of upcoming high-stakes diplomatic affairs has made the confirmation of a new top US diplomat more urgent.
  • Now Democrats in the Senate must pick between sticking to their values and leaving the US without a Secretary of State as the Trump administration heads into negotiations with Kim Jong Un, China, and Iran.

President Donald Trump sending CIA director Mike Pompeo to North Korea to conduct diplomacy while Pompeo awaits Senate confirmation looks to have put Democrats in a tough spot.

By dismissing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just months before a high-stakes meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, Trump has upped the pressure on Senate Democrats to confirm a nominee for a top diplomat who they genuinely seem not to like.

Pompeo failed to get the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's approval for the post, but he could now be headed to a vote on the Senate floor. All 49 Democrats will have to heavily weigh the benefit of denying a nominee they disagree with against leaving the US without its top diplomat.

Democrats in the Foreign Relations Committee grilled Pompeo on his apparent allegiance to Trump, past comments on Muslims, and stances LGBT rights, ultimately denying him the recommendation.

RELATED: A look at Mike Pompeo

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., holds a meeting with CIA Director nominee Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., in his Capitol office on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Mike Pompeo (L) is sworn in as CIA Director by Vice President Mike Pence (R) as wife Susan Pompeo (2nd L) looks on at Eisenhower Executive Office Building January 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Pompeo was confirmed for the position by the Senate this evening.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

UNITED STATES - JUNE 28: Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., right, chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi, conducts a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center, June 28, 2016, to announce the Committee's report on the 2012 attacks in Libya that killed four Americans. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., also appears. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican from Kansas and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director nominee for President-elect Donald Trump, swears in to a Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. Pompeo is seeking to reassure senators that he can shift from an outspoken policymaker to an objective spy chief if confirmed.

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., holds a meeting with CIA Director nominee Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., in his Capitol office on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS) arrives to testify before a Senate Intelligence hearing on his nomination of to be become director of the CIA at Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 12, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (R) finishes swearing in Mike Pompeo, flanked by his wife Susan Pompeo, to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the vice president's ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 23, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Mike Pompeo gets a hug from supporter Jennifer O'Connor after arriving at the Sedgwick County Republican headquarters at Market Centre in Wichita, Kansas, on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

(Fernando Salazar/Wichita Eagle/MCT via Getty Images)

Adam Schiff (D-CA) left, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) center, and moderator Chuck Todd, right, appear on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015.

(William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for the director of the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) attends his confirmation hearing before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee on January 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. Mr. Pompeo is a former Army officer who graduated first in his class from West Point.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) listens as Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) speaks during his confirmation hearing to be the director of the CIA before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee on January 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. Mr. Pompeo is a former Army officer who graduated first in his class from West Point.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., speaks during the news conference before a group of House Republican freshmen walked to the Senate to deliver a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday, March 30, 2011. The letter called on the Senate to pass a long term continuing resolution with spending cuts.

(Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)

US Congressman Mike Pompeo (C), R-Kansas, sits in the dark after a power failure with US Senator Pat Roberts (L), a former Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and former US Senator Bob Dole (R), R-Kansas, as he prepares to testify before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 12, 2017, on his nomination to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the Trump administration.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., center, nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is introduced by former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., right, and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., during Pompeo's Senate Select Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Building, January 12, 2017. The hearing was moved from Hart Building due to a peer outage.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Incoming Trump administration cabinet secretary nominees including Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson (L-R), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director nominee Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary nominee James Mattis arrive for meetings at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 13, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Mike Pompeo (2nd L), flanked by his wife Susan Pompeo (2nd R) and their son Nick Pompeo (R), signs his affidavit of appointment after being sworn in as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) in Pence's ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 23, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

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But while the Senate argues about whether or not Pompeo is fit for the job, the CIA director seems to have already started preparing for the position with a secret visit to North Korea in April.

"If some of my colleagues are concerned that Pompeo is holding high level talks w/ NK because that's a role of a Secretary of State, they should act quickly and confirm him. I have full confidence in his ability to lead these talks to denuclearize the Kim regime," Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado tweeted.

Trump has an upcoming meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong Un in the summer, ongoing trade disputes with China, a troubled relationship that has teetered on the brink of conflict with Russia, and a deadline to "fix" the Iran deal by May 12.

With 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats in the Senate, and Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky coming out against Pompeo to head the State Department, Trump needs to sway a few Democrats and keep the other Republicans in line to get his pick.

Already, the Democrats have shown a small sign of fracturing under the pressure, as Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia met with Pompeo on Tuesday and said it went well.

But it was Trump who dismissed Tillerson with a stack of diplomatic tasks still urgently needing attendance.

If Republicans use the pressing need for US diplomatic leadership as a case to compel Democrats to vote against their interests, then they'll in part be using a crisis of Trump's own making.

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RELATED: High-profile Congressional Democrats

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Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA)
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)
U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
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See Also:

SEE ALSO: News of CIA director Mike Pompeo's secret trip to meet Kim Jong Un in North Korea comes on the same day multiple lawmakers indicated they won't approve his bid to become secretary of state

DON'T MISS: Trump confirms CIA head Pompeo went to North Korea to meet Kim Jong Un, says it went 'very smoothly'

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