CIA Director Mike Pompeo, President Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, came under fire earlier this month for failing to disclose business ties to two companies controlled by the Chinese government.
Now new documents reviewed by HuffPost show that Pompeo’s links to foreign-owned oil and gas companies are even more extensive than was previously reported. But, despite the evidence, Pompeo continues to deny his foreign entanglements, according to a Senate source who asked to remain anonymous to talk to HuffPost about proceedings that haven’t been made public yet.
But his failure to be forthright about his business ties to a foreign-owned company has raised questions about how he will perform as the nation’s top diplomat, especially in the midst of an escalating trade conflict between the US and China.
“Director Pompeo either was somehow unaware he was doing business with a Chinese government-controlled company, or he knew and decided to hide that fact from Congress,” Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat on the intelligence committee, said after the initial reports that Pompeo had failed to disclose foreign ties. “Neither option is acceptable for a man who would be responsible for our nation’s most sensitive diplomatic matters.”
Pompeo omitted any mention of the Chinese companies on a mandatory questionnaire he filled out last year before his Senate confirmation to head the CIA. Asked if he had “received any compensation from, or been involved in any business transaction with a foreign government or any entity controlled by a foreign government” in the past 10 years, Pompeo wrote, “No.”
But earlier this month, McClatchy reported his Kansas company’s ties to Sinopec – an oil and gas giant that is majority-owned by the China Petrochemical Corporation. Documents seen by HuffPost Wednesday show that Sentry International, a Kansas company where Pompeo served as president, imported products from two subsidiaries of the state-owned oil company China National Petroleum Corporation. The transactions – for a total of 12 shipments of oil and gas equipment – occurred as late as 2007 and 2009, when Pompeo was still serving as Sentry’s president. That brings Pompeo’s total undisclosed relationships with foreign firms to four.
After McClatchy’s initial news report, Sen. Bob Menendez, a member of the Senate foreign relations committee, vowed to ask Pompeo about the omission. On Wednesday, HuffPost learned that Pompeo stood by his answers to the questionnaire in response to a written question Menendez sent Pompeo after the committee hearing.
“Do you stand by the statement you made in your [questionnaire] that for the previous 10 years you had not been involved in any financial or business transactions with any entity controlled by a foreign government?” Menendez asked.
“Yes,” Pompeo wrote.
The CIA did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s inquiry. In response to the report by McClatchy, a CIA spokesman said: “Mr. Pompeo was president of an American company in Kansas that sold products made in many different countries, Canada and China to name just two. In fact, the paper clips the company used were from Taiwan. He would have no reason to know details on the layers of companies that may or may not have had ownership interests in each overseas company that supplied products to his Kansas company.”
Pompeo submitted a new questionnaire to the Senate as part of his nomination to be secretary of state; the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has not made his answers public.
Senators at Pompeo’s Foreign Relations Committee hearings were split over the significance of his omission.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, thought the omissions were inconsequential. He “didn’t disclose that he had purchased a pump that resold from a Chinese company,” Burr told McClatchy. “That’s like when you buy a pair of shoes at K-Mart.”
On Tuesday, the committee narrowly recommended Pompeo be confirmed after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) reversed his earlier opposition.
Pompeo served as the president of Sentry International from 2006 to 2010. The Kansas-based company and its subsidiaries sold and purchased oil and gas equipment around the world, including some equipment manufactured in China.
Among its manufacturers, was DQE International, which sent nine shipments, including pumping units, to Sentry as recently as 2009. A Securities and Exchange Commission filing disclosed that as of 2010 DQE International was owned by CNPC Daqing Petroleum, a subsidiary of the state-owned China National Petroleum Corp.
Another Sentry supplier was the China Petroleum Technology & Development Corp. The company, which sent Sentry three shipments of pumping units as late as 2007, discloses on its website that it is also a China National Petroleum Corp. subsidiary.
Records of Sentry’s suppliers were obtained from Panjiva, a global supply-chain monitoring firm.
In his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Pompeo signaled his willingness to be confrontational with China.
“Even while America has reestablished a position of strength in our diplomatic relationship, China continues its concerted and coordinated effort to compete with the United States in diplomatic, military and economic terms,” he said. “For years, through IP theft and coercive technology transfer, China has exploited weak U.S. trade policy and leeched wealth and secrets from our economy. Militarily, it continues its provocation in the South and East China Seas, in cyberspace and even in outer space. This administration is determined to work diplomatically with the Chinese government in an effort to develop a more productive bilateral partnership.”