That list includes Elliott Abrams, who Pompeo picked last week as his special envoy to deal with the political crisis in Venezuela. Abrams’s opposition to Trump when he was running for president led the administration to block his candidacy as then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s deputy two years ago. But bygones are bygones.
State Department officials say they are just going after the best talent. More skeptical observers say the moves reflect a harsher reality: The administration has little choice given the unprecedented rate at which it’s churned through senior officials. So many conservatives with foreign policy expertise spoke out against Trump before his election that banning all of them means he’d have few qualified candidates to choose from.
“Without the ‘Never Trumpers’ they have no bench, and they need all the help they can get,” said Thomas Wright, director of the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution. “If there’s any thawing, that’s a positive thing.”