WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged Wednesday that he had been approached to run for Senate next year but said he was focused for now on being America’s top diplomat.
He said that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican, asked him to consider the race in Kansas, where Pompeo served three terms in the House of Representatives until he joined President Donald Trump’s administration.
“I spoke to Senator McConnell once. He asked me if I’d think about it, and I told him I appreciated the phone call,” Pompeo said in an interview.
Pompeo declined to respond if he was interested, saying that answering might violate a US law against federal employees engaging in political activity.
“Lots of folks have reached out to me and suggested I ought to do that. I have suggested to them that I have a very full plate as secretary of state, and I intend to keep doing this so long as President Trump will commit to it,” Pompeo said.
The Republicans are bracing for a potentially tough vote in November 2020, when Trump is up for re-election and the party is defending almost twice as many Senate seats as the Democrats.
Kansas has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932, the longest streak in which either of the two major US parties has held a lock on both seats in a state.
But the Midwestern state in November elected a Democrat as governor and Senator Pat Roberts, a popular 82-year-old Republican, has said he will not run again next year.
Pompeo would enjoy instant name recognition if he ran for Senate. He keeps a presence in Kansas through regular local media interviews and is popular with conservative Christians, speaking often about his faith.
Secretary of state is generally considered the most prestigious cabinet position, with Hillary Clinton and John Kerry both leaving the Senate to take the job.
But the Senate would ensure Pompeo a prominent position in Washington for at least six years, regardless of the outcome of the next presidential election.
Trump has been quick to turn on his cabinet members although Pompeo, who was first tapped to run the CIA, has by all accounts been among the president’s favorites.
Pompeo last year replaced Rex Tillerson, a former chief executive of oil giant ExxonMobil, whom Trump later derided on Twitter as “dumb as a rock.”
Islamic State group claims Sri Lanka bombs that killed hundreds
COLOMBO: A local group on Tuesday said it was behind a devastating string of suicide attacks against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka that killed more than 320 people on Easter Sunday.
The claim emerged more than 48 hours after the near-simultaneous blasts tore through three high-end hotels popular with foreigners and three churches packed with Christians marking Easter.
It came after Sri Lanka’s government said initial investigations suggested the attack had been carried out as “retaliation” for shootings at two mosques in New Zealand last month that killed 50 people.
The Sri Lankan government had already pointed the figure at a little-known local extremist group, but said it was investigating whether they had international support.
“Those that carried out the attack that targeted members of the US-led coalition and Christians in Sri Lanka the day before yesterday are Islamic State group fighters,” a statement released by the group’s propaganda agency Amaq said.
It presented no immediate evidence for the claim, or further details on the attackers.
Kim’s schedule for Russia visit seen to be taking shape
VLADIVOSTOK: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s schedule for a visit to Russia appears to be taking shape, with his security and protocol staff spotted making final preparations in Vladivostok for his upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Moscow and Pyongyang have confirmed that Kim will visit Russia for the summit, but they did not disclose its date and venue. Media speculate that he is likely to arrive by train in Russia’s Far Eastern city of Vladivostok on Wednesday and hold the talks the following day.
Kim Chang-son, the North Korean leader’s protocol chief, and other staff members have been seen checking facilities in Vladivostok, including those of the Far Eastern Federal University, where the leaders of the two countries are expected to meet.
A diplomatic source here said that Moscow and Pyongyang appear to be fine-tuning the schedule for a dinner between Kim and Putin on Wednesday and their formal meeting the next day.
Should he decide to travel by train, Kim would travel a distance of around 1,200 kilometers from Pyongyang on a trip expected to take 20 hours or more given the poor railway conditions in some stretches toward the border with Russia.
The federal university on Russky Island of Vladivostok is seen as the most likely summit venue, as it has so far hosted a series of top-level international events, including the 2012 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
The university is also a site of Russia’s annual Eastern Economic Forum designed to publicize and strengthen Moscow’s policy initiative to attract investment for and expedite the development of the Far Easter region.
Security on a bridge leading to the insular university is relatively easy to control, another reason why the university has been cited as a likely summit site.
US sanctions over Iran oil will ‘intensify Mideast turmoil’: China
BEIJING: China warned Tuesday that the US decision to impose sanctions on buyers of Iranian oil will “intensify turmoil” in the Middle East and in the international energy market.
The White House announced Monday it was calling an end to six-month waivers that had exempted several countries — including major importer China — from unilateral US sanctions on Iranian oil exports.
“China firmly opposes the US implementation of unilateral sanctions and its so-called long-armed jurisdiction,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing.
“The relevant move by the United States will intensify the turmoil in the Middle East and the turmoil in the international energy market.”
In seeking to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero, the Trump administration is targeting the country’s top revenue earner in its latest no-holds-barred move to crush the economy and scale back the clerical regime’s influence.