President Donald Trump said Wednesday that Mike Pompeo's confirmation as secretary of state was "going to come through" despite opposition by three senators — including Republican Rand Paul — in a chamber where the GOP holds a slim majority.
"Mike Pompeo is extraordinary," Trump told reporters at the start of trade talks at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
"He was No. 1 at Harvard. He's a great gentleman.
"He'll go down as truly a great secretary of state," Trump said.
President Trump confirmed on Twitter earlier Wednesday that Pompeo, 54, the CIA director whom he nominated after firing Rex Tillerson last month, had met secretly with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un over the Easter weekend.
The undisclosed session was the first known high-level talks between the nations since 2000, when Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with Kim Jong Il, the late father of Pyongyang's leader.
Trump told reporters Pompeo "got along with him really well.
"Really great — and he's that kind of a guy," the president added. "He's very smart, but he gets along with people.
"Mike will be in good shape."
However, Trump cautioned: "We'll see what happens.
"A lot of people are predicting other things, but I have a feeling it's going to work out very well.
"Our country really needs him," the president said. "He's going to be a great leader."
The president and Kim are now expected to meet in late May or early June, focusing on Trump's demands for denuclearization and that Kim halts his long-range missile program.
Paul, the second-term Kentucky senator, said last month he would do "whatever it takes" — including filibuster — to block Pompeo's nomination, arguing the CIA's chief hawkish positions "are too much of an advocate for regime change, really everywhere."
"I don't think our policy ought to be for regime change, so I think Pompeo really isn't a good fit to be a diplomat," Paul told "Face the Nation" on CBS News.
However, Trump was confident Paul would back Pompeo.
"I will say this about Rand Paul: He's never let me down," he said. "Rand Paul is a very special guy, as far as I'm concerned.
"He's never let me down. I don't think he'll let us down again."
Trump then referred to Paul's support for repealing basic elements of Obamacare last July, though Arizona Sen. John McCain killed the legislation when he opposed it in an early morning Senate vote.
"If you remember, he voted for healthcare — and he did us a big favor," Trump said. "It was somebody else that voted against it that hurt us.
"So, have I a lot of confidence in Rand — but I also have a great deal of confidence in Mike Pompeo.
"I think Mike Pompeo will go down as one of the great secretaries of state," Trump reiterated.
However, two Democrats, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, said they would oppose Pompeo in a floor vote.
Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate — and McCain continues to undergo cancer treatments in Arizona.
"I believe our nation's top diplomat must be forthright, and more critically his past sentiments did not reflect our nation's values and are not acceptable for our nation's top diplomat," Menendez told a Washington think tank on Wednesday.
He also slammed Pompeo for not disclosing the secret Kim meeting over Easter.
"Even in my private conversations with him, he didn't tell me about his visit to North Korea," Menendez told the group, adding he did not object to the meeting itself.
"Now, I don't expect diplomacy to be negotiated out in the open, but I do expect for someone who is the nominee to be secretary of state, when he speaks with committee leadership and is asked specific questions about North Korea, to share some insights about such a visit."
Kaine also told "Face the Nation" on Sunday: "We have a president who is anti-diplomacy, and I worry that Mike Pompeo has shown the same tendency to oppose diplomacy."
Paul, Menendez and Kaine all sit on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, with Menendez being the ranking Democrat.
The panel, chaired by Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, grilled Pompeo at his confirmation hearing last week — and The Washington Post immediately called for his confirmation after the session.
Pompeo "did his best . . . to be reassuring," the Post editorial board wrote, noting Trump was engaged in various foreign crises "with a badly depleted national security apparatus" because "dozens of senior positions are vacant at the State Department."
"He stressed that he favored diplomatic solutions with Iran and North Korea; he played down the likely consequences of a decision by Mr. Trump to scrap the Iran deal next month," the Post said.
But Pompeo should be confirmed, the editorial argued, "in the hope that he will fulfill his promise to revive and reassert U.S. diplomacy."
Regarding the secret Kim meeting, Corker endorsed it Wednesday and predicted a confirmation vote on Pompeo could come as early as next week.
"I like the fact that Pompeo met with him," the chairman told a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. "I hope that a lot of other people will meet with him.
"And I hope there's huge amounts of precursor activity that takes place before [Trump and Kim] meet."
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