Donald Trump’s pick to run the CIA said Thursday he understands he would have to make the transition from a partisan, policymaking lawmaker to an objective intelligence collector as the United States faces a complicated and broad array of threats.
Rep. Mike Pompeo, a four-term, conservative Republican from Kansas, made the comments in testimony prepared for his appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee. If confirmed by the Senate as CIA director, Pompeo could be caught in the role of mending relations between Trump and intelligence officials after a testy standoff over suspected Russian meddling during the 2016 election.
Pompeo served on the partisan House committee set up to investigate the deadly attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.
Trump has for the most part been dismissive of intelligence agencies’ findings that Russia, specifically President Vladimir Putin, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election with the goal of electing Trump. The CIA is one of three main intelligence agencies that came to that conclusion.
On Wednesday, Trump acknowledged Russia was responsible but speculated that intelligence agencies might have leaked to news organizations details about a classified briefing with him that included unsubstantiated allegations about his ties to Russia.
Pompeo graduated first in the Class of 1986 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He served in the Army at a time when the Soviet Union was America’s main adversary.
Pompeo has been critical of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, which granted Tehran sanctions relief for rolling back its nuclear weapons program. And he has said that Muslim leaders are “potentially complicit” in terrorist attacks if they do not denounce those made in the name of Islam. He has also called for the government to increase surveillance to counter terrorists, not roll it back, and he wants Congress to play a larger role in overseeing intelligence agency activity.
The congressman also supports the use of waterboarding to elicit information from suspected terrorists.
Pompeo initially backed Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., for the Republican nomination for president in 2016, but then promoted Trump’s bid for the White House. Rubio is a member of the Senate intelligence committee.