Pompeo, preparing for potential 2024 run, walks fine line between defending, criticizing Trump

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Mike Pompeo says it is no surprise he returned to New Hampshire.

“I’m here. It’s not random,” the former secretary of state told Fox News on Tuesday when asked about his latest visit to the state, which for a century has held the first primary in the race for the White House.

Pompeo, taking questions from reporters after headlining “Politics and Eggs” at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, explained that he and his wife Susan are “thinking about what’s the right place for us to continue the fight that I spoke about today. I believe deeply that this country is worth fighting for.”

“Whether we’ll decide to get in the race and run for president, I can’t answer. But we are doing the things that one would do to be ready to make such an announcement and then to engage with the American people on the ideas that we believe matter,” Pompeo emphasized. 

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Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo address the 'Politics and Eggs' speaking series at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, on Sept. 20, 202 in Goffstown, New Hampshire. 

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo address the ‘Politics and Eggs’ speaking series at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, on Sept. 20, 202 in Goffstown, New Hampshire.  (Fox News )

The West Point graduate and Army armor and calvary officer was stationed in West Germany during the Cold War and was later elected to Congress from Kansas before serving as CIA director and America’s top diplomat in former President Trump’s administration. He has made numerous stops the past year and a half in New Hampshire as well as Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada, the other three early voting states in the Republican presidential nominating calendar. Additionally, the “Politics and Eggs” speaking series at St. Anselm College, just outside of Manchester, has been a must-stop for nearly a quarter-century for actual and potential White House hopefuls of both major parties.

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When asked about his timetable regarding a decision on launching a presidential campaign, Pompeo told Fox News that “it will be a handful of months from now before Susan and I are actually able to sort through and figure out what we’re going to do.”

Pompeo used part of his address to blast President Biden over the heated language the president used recently in targeting “MAGA Republicans,” who he argues have embraced “semi-fascism” due to their continued loyalty to Trump.

President Biden delivers a speech at Independence National Historical Park Sept. 1, 2022 in Philadelphia. The president spoke on "the continued battle for the Soul of the Nation."

President Biden delivers a speech at Independence National Historical Park Sept. 1, 2022 in Philadelphia. The president spoke on “the continued battle for the Soul of the Nation.” (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The president, in a primetime address at Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park, where the Declaration of Independence and the nation’s Constitution were debated and signed, argued that “too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal. Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.”

Biden’s more aggressive language of late appears to be a move to alter the midterms narrative from a referendum on Biden and congressional Democrats and their record steering the country — amid record inflation, soaring crime, and border security — to a choice election between Biden and Trump and a battle to save democracy. The president’s new push made national headlines but also received plenty of pushback from Republicans.

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“The president of the United States gave a speech that smeared half the country. He identified half the country as enemies of the state,” Pompeo said. “His principles, the things that we have been living through these last now year and a half plus, I sum up in three ideas: woke, weak, and waffling.”

Pompeo argued that the president “abandoned American hope and replaced it with woke despair. He would replace American sincerity with cynicism, and he would replace American freedom with woke control. It’s fracturing our nation.”

Pompeo, a Fox News contributor, defended the Trump administration when asked by Fox News how he squared his criticisms of Biden after he served under a president who many claimed was the most divisive in American history.

“I don’t think that’s true,” Pompeo responded. “I think the most divisive president in my lifetime is the one that’s currently serving. We didn’t get it right every day. No administration does. But if you look at the polices and how they delivered for the American people, I’m proud of the work that we did.”

Pompeo walked a fine line during his address, a question-and-answer session with the audience, and in fielding questions from reporters, between supporting the Trump administration while at the same time putting some daylight between himself and some of Trump’s more controversial actions. It is a balancing act that is likely required of anyone seriously mulling a GOP presidential run in a party where Trump remains the most popular and influential politician with the base.

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Pompeo called the deadly Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by right wing extremists and other Trump supporters amid congressional certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory in the 2020 election “a bad day for the United States of America… it was a tragically bad day.” 

He emphasized that “It ended well. It ended with our then-Vice President Mike Pence and our members of Congress going and finishing America’s business that day. I was incredibly proud of them for that.” 

However, Pompeo also quickly added that “I equally believe that the riots that took place all across this country during the 2020 were bad for America too.” 

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signs the iconic wooden eggs before addressing the 'Politics and Eggs' speaking series at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, on Sept. 20, 2022 in Goffstown, New Hampshire. 

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signs the iconic wooden eggs before addressing the ‘Politics and Eggs’ speaking series at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, on Sept. 20, 2022 in Goffstown, New Hampshire.  (Fox News )

Regarding the FBI’s search last month of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, in which agents recovered classified documents, Pompeo stressed that “nobody gets to keep classified documents in the place there not supposed to be. Not the former secretary of state. Nobody.”

However, he added that “the raid on Mar-a-Lago was indecent and improper and historically unprecedented and terrible idea for our democracy… it’s possible that there are two wrongs took place there.”

Longtime New Hampshire Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley blasted Pompeo, calling him “just another one of disgraced former President Trump’s cronies that stuck by his side to serve his own political ambitions. He can visit New Hampshire all he wants, but Granite Staters want nothing to do with a MAGA extremist like that. He would get chewed up and spit out in any contest here, and no amount of pandering or fearmongering will change that.”

Pompeo also provided plenty of red meat for conservative primary voters that he might be aiming to win over next year.

In his speech, he heavily criticized the Biden administration’s actions over the past year and a half in dealing with the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

When asked about the calls by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom for an investigation into GOP Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas for transporting undocumented migrants to progressive cities and other bastions in the northern part of the U.S., Pompeo told reporters that “Gov. Newsom’s comments about human trafficking. That’s craziness. Joe Biden’s moved more immigrants around this country than Gov. DeSantis will ever move around this country.”

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“This is about ideas. And an open southern border is deeply dangerous to the American idea. And you heard these questions today from the audience about fentanyl in your home state of New Hampshire. Today fentanyl is as cheap as it’s ever been and that’s because of the policies of President Joe Biden. He’s allowed this stuff to come across the country,” Pompeo said.

He also blasted Vice President Kamala Harris, charging that “when Vice President Harris tells you they’re not walking across the border, every one of you, every one of you, should say ‘ma’am, here’s the picture of them coming across. You are lying to the American people.’ And not let her gaslight. It’s not about her. It’s not about people. It’s about the ideas that matter to our country and to lie to the American people about what’s actually taking place there is indecent.”

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