Mike Pompeo's secretary of state confirmation hearing begins

Mike Pompeo's secretary of state confirmation hearing begins
The confirmation hearing for CIA chief Mike Pompeo's appointment as secretary of state has begun in the US Senate.

Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, Pompeo was expected to face questions over his past positions on torture, allegations of Islamophobia and a failure to disclose dealings with a Chinese company, according to reports.

Last year, Pompeo failed to include a company he owned in Kansas that had imported Chinese oilfield equipment in his disclosures filed when he was named CIA director, the McClatchy news agency reported.

"We expect Director Pompeo to be able to explain exactly what financial entanglement he had with the Chinese government and why he failed to disclose it," Juan Pachon, the committee's communications director, told McClatchy.

Pompeo needs a simple majority in the Senate to be confirmed. He was confirmed to his position as head of the CIA last year in a vote of 66 to 32, with 14 Democrats voting for his appointment.

Republicans hold 52 seats in the 100-seat Senate, but two Republican senators will not vote for his confirmation: Arizona's John McCain is away for cancer treatment and Kentucky's Rand Paul has said he will vote "no".

As such, at least one Democratic vote will be required for his confirmation.
However, Senate Democrats may refuse to vote in favour of Pompeo, with US midterm elections approaching in November and Democrats eyeing sweeping victories due to the unpopularity of US President Donald Trump.

Democrats are campaigning on an anti-Trump platform and attempting to distance themselves from his policies.

Trump has spoken highly of Pompeo, as has a group of 53 national security experts, who sent a letter to Republican Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, saying Pompeo is "the sort of seasoned, accomplished and energetic national security policy practitioner our nation desperately needs at this juncture in the role of secretary of state".

If confirmed, Pompeo will replace Rex Tillerson, who was sacked by Trump in March. Tillerson finished his time as secretary of state at the end of that month. 

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