Before Mike Pompeo was secretary of state in the Trump Administration, he served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency — a position he held from January 2017 (the month Trump was sworn into office) to April 2018. Journalist Natasha Bertrand looks back on Pompeo’s activities as CIA director in an article for Politico, reporting that he “put together an undisclosed board of outside advisers” that “some at the agency viewed as inappropriately weighted toward wealthy individuals and well-connected political figures.”
According to former and current CIA officials, Bertrand writes, those advisers “were often treated to elaborate multi-day experiences that included ‘lavish’ dinners, classified briefings and at least one trip to the CIA’s secret training facilities.”
Bertrand goes on to explain that although those events “didn’t run afoul of any laws,” several “former senior CIA officials who were at the agency under Pompeo’s leadership, from January 2017 to April 2018, said they thought the then-director ‘crossed a line’ in his use of the external advisory board to charm business leaders and influential political figures.”
Bertrand reports that according to Politico’s sources, Pompeo’s board ranged from billionaire Marc Andreessen —an executive at the advertising agency McCann Worldgroup — to former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The board also included William Barr, who served as U.S. attorney general under the late President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s and now holds that position under President Donald Trump. Like Pompeo, Barr has turned out to be a staunch Trump loyalist — and Trump has asserted that he is much happier with Barr than he was with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who he fired in November 2018. Similarly, Trump has praised Pompeo while slamming former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as someone he never should have hired in the first place.
A source described by Bertrand as a former CIA official told Politico that the board of advisers “were designed vanity experiences for the attendees, clearly designed to expand Pompeo’s network at government expense and under the rubric of a formal body. They were not substantive and were solely designed to advance Pompeo’s potential funding and political network.”
According to Bertrand, “The advisory board events were orchestrated primarily by two of Pompeo’s closest confidants: his wife Susan and one of his best friends and fellow West Point alum, businessman Brian Bulatao, whom Pompeo tapped as CIA’s chief operations officer in 2017.”
Douglas London, a former senior operations officer in the CIA, told Politico, “Bulatao was billed as coming in with his outside business experience to advance efficiencies, an important role for the chief operating officer. But in the meetings I witnessed him participate in, Bulatao was primarily concerned with Pompeo’s image and other political considerations.”