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INSIDE POLITICS

Lawmakers Grill Trump's Secretary Of State Pick. Aired 12:30- 1pm ET

Aired April 12, 2018 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[12:30:01] MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: -- Asia and others to jointly set up a framework that achieves what it is that you've described as our objective. We are far more likely to achieve most or all of it.

SEN. TODD YOUNG (R), INDIANA: Mr. Director, given the challenges we confront in with Russia, Iran, North Korea, China, and beyond, do you believe our nation's need for effective diplomacy will decrease in the coming year or two?

POMPEO: Senator, it seems unimaginable. But if I'm good enough, right, of we can -- I'm hopeful that we can begin to take some of these challenges away. I had -- I was mindful. I had all the former CIA directors, nearly all of them attended. And to a person, they've been there, some of them 20 and 25 years ago they said, Mike, the stack has only gotten longer. We haven't told one of these problems that's from the pile. And we need to do that. We need to start to solve some of these.

YOUNG: So your response so humorous, actually is something I'd like to shine a light on. Because the previous occupant of the secretary of state position once indicated that part of the rationale behind his funding request for the Department of State was that there would be less of a need on account of highly effective near-term diplomacy for as much funding.

Now, any large organization here in Washington or beyond can be made more efficient and we can identify funding decreases that might be made. But I would regard this, a risky strategy to assume that your highly affected diplomacy is going to be a strong rationale for funding cuts. Are you operating under the premise that highly effective diplomacy will lead to lower funding requests in the international account without org?

POMPEO: No. When I said that I am optimistic, I'm hopeful this is the task that which we're engaged. But I can't see anything in the six, or 12 or 24-month time horizon that would prevent us to have any less demand for diplomatic resources.

YOUNG: Strikes me as responsible, thank you sir.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Thank you former House Energy Committee cohort to the witness, Senator Markey.

SEN. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: OK. Thank you along with Senator Gardner and many others, 50, you know, many, many members. So, welcome, sir.

POMPEO: Thank you.

MARKEY: I want to talk about the threat of nuclear war. In North Korea I'm glad to hear that you believe that we should exhaust all options before resorting to military conflict. I agree with you. But I do not believe that we have yet exhausted all options.

You've spoken about setting conditions for success in advance of President Trump's meeting with Kim Jong-un. And I am, right now, very concerned that the lack of a coherent policy in North Korea could lead to a very poor meeting. And if that meeting goes poorly, some might reach the conclusion that both economic pressure and diplomatic engagement have failed.

National Security Adviser John Bolton has recently outlined the case for a preventative military strikes on North Korea. Are there any conditions under which you would support preventative military strikes against North Korea as secretary of state?

POMPEO: Senator, thanks for the question. That phrase preventative military strikes has a long history. A lots folks have the different views. I want to be careful. There's a legal view. There's -- I'm sure I want to stay away from the legal.

Let me give you my judgment, my diplomatic and national security judgment on that. I want to start with the predicate of your question. While I don't want to speculate or hypothesize on how the negotiation might go, it's my full anticipation that however that meeting goes, there will be enormous diplomatic work yet remaining.

To your point we have not yet exhausted our capacity there. I think there's an awfully long way to go. The president has made clear, and I agree with him, that there may come that day. There may come the day when we see an arsenal of nuclear weapons capable of striking the United States of America. The president has made clear his intention to prevent that from happening.

And to the extent the diplomatic tools and other tools that America has as its foreign policy power are unsuccessful. I know that Secretary Mattis has been directed to present to the president a set of options that will achieve the president's objective.

MARKEY: Right. Secretary Mattis has said that we're never out of diplomatic options. And let me get your response to this, because there are going to be some who make that recommendation that we try to our diplomatic and economic sanctions and Kim was absolutely unresponsive in this meeting with the president.

[12:35:08] Let me remind you that the Pentagon has stated that, "The only way to locate and destroy with complete certainty all components of North Korea's nuclear weapons programs would be through a ground invasion. And as you know, projections for a conventional war on the peninsula estimate that between 30,000 to 300,000 U.S. personnel could die in the first days of a conflict." You're a military man. You understand this. Is there any circumstance under which you would concur with John Bolton that with the exhaustion of economic sanctions from his perspective that a ground invasion of North Korea would be necessary in order to rid that country of its nuclear weapons program?

POMPEO: Senator, I suppose I could hypothesize such a situation. So I'll answer your question is going to imagine when, yes Senator, I could. I mean I suppose it's possible that we could get to the condition where -- and I think there would be wide consensus on this panel where Kim Jong-un was directly threatening and we had information about his activities. Yes, I can imagine times when America would need to take a response that moved past diplomacy.

MARKEY: Yes. Well, I would say to you that the consequences of the United States initiating an attack against North Korea would be catastrophic.

POMPEO: Senator, I agree with that.

MARKEY: If we had not been attacked, if we had not been attacked, and that's what concerns me about John Bolton. And I think the American people will want reassurances, you know, from you that you would not consider such inaction because, ultimately, he already has nuclear weapons. And it would be catastrophic almost immediately if we decided to make a first strike against him.

So, I don't feel comfortable with you not taking that off the table. But I'd like to move on to Saudi Arabia and the 1-2-3 agreement that's being negotiated with them. And again, I'm going to quote Mr. Bolton that "Civil nuclear cooperation on 1-2-3 agreements between the U.S. and other countries must include the gold standard, a commitment to forgo any uranium enrichment or spent fuel reprocessing to technologies critical to the development of nuclear weapons.'

Do you believe that any agreement that we negotiate with Saudi Arabia should in fact have a gold standard?

POMPEO: Senator, yes. One of my critiques of the arrangement we reached with Iran was it was insufficiently close to such a standard.

MARKEY: So you support the gold standard?

POMPEO: I do. And while I've not been part of the negotiations, Senator, I know that the State Department and the Department of Energy are working towards achieving that.

MARKEY: Right. So you -- would you oppose any agreement that was less than the gold standard? That is, that ultimately permitted for uranium enrichment or plutonium reprocessing technology on the soil of Saudi Arabia?

POMPEO: Senator, I can't answer that for you. I can imagine that we got close but not quite to the full definition of the gold standard. I don't want to hypothesize. So the answer, I guess, is yes, I can imagine such a scenario. MARKEY: Well, how do you think Iran would respond if we pulled out of the agreement with Iran while simultaneously agreeing to a deal where Saudi Arabia could receive plutonium reprocessing and uranium enrichment equipment? How do you think they would respond?

POMPEO: Senator, this is precisely my concern with the Iran agreement.

MARKEY: Right. So, that's the question I'm asking you, what would be the response if we were providing nuclear weapons material to the Saudi Arabians?

POMPEO: Yes, Senator, I think they would take it into account. And, remember, when we're talking about nuclear weapons, we are most often talking about multiple components. We're talking about missile material, the capacity to weaponize and a delivery mechanism often through missile systems. Today, Iran has that capacity to do that.

MARKEY: Right.

POMPEO: I'm just making to the challenge that the Saudi Arabians also see --

MARKEY: I appreciate.

POMPEO: -- from our failure to negotiate a sound agreement with Iran.

MARKEY: This is going to be a very dangerous concoction if we pull out of the Iran deal, give nuclear weapons materials to -- or permit them to obtain nuclear weapons-making materials in their country. The juxtaposition of abandoning the Iran deal while simultaneously giving the Iraq's rival, Saudi Arabia, a sweetheart deal is going to lead to a highly combustible condition in the Middle East.

[12:40:08] That is avoidable if we reinforce the Iran deal, ensure that it's being complied with while also maintaining a gold standard. Otherwise what the Saudi Arabias are going to want is to be put on third base for the lead with nuclear weapons construction materials and I think this administration will be making a terrible mistake if it would negotiates a deal that allows the Saudi Arabians to do that.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

POMPEO: Thank you, Senator Markey.

CORKER: Thank you. And we'll turn to Senator Isakson that we have talked with Senator Perry and I couldn't agree more that we need to stress a gold standard. At the same time, I understand that when you have given Iran the right to enrich, everybody in the region is going to want the right to enrich.

So, you've got your work cut out for you over the next period of time, and it is quite -- it's very difficult to tell an Arab nation that they cannot, when we said that the Shia can. So, Senator Isakson.

SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON (R), GEORGIA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Congratulations on your nomination.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A quick break. We'll resume our senate coverage right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get back to our special coverage. Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia is asking questions of Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state nominee.

ISAKSON: -- on big issues that we need in the United Nations. So I hope you'll focus on Africa when you have the chance and realize what the state government has done.

Lastly, this is kind of an editorial statement. My experience of the State Department has been that it has been in a blue funk for about a year and a half. And one of the things I told you is when you came to my office. I thought there was a real need for a perk, for an adjustment, and for an attitude improvement with the State Department. I think you're all for the opportunity to be that catalyst of the department.

To your credit, your critics and your complimentors, or whatever that term should be, at the state -- at the CIA give you high marks for bringing that agency back in an enthusiasm and motivational mission. I think your meeting with Mike that you referred to in your opening statement and your current statement were exactly the seed for them because they all of a sudden the employees had a chance to speak out to you, tell you what they thought needed to be done.

And you had the chance in that environment tell them what they could be as a partner to you to help that happen. And as I understand it, and I'm not shilling for anyone, but as I understand it, the attitudes of the State Department are the best that they probably ever been, that there's -- the unity there is strong. And the understanding of the mission of the rank and file employees is great.

[12:44:58] So I want to challenge you to replicate where possible in the State Department that same energy and fire energy and fire that you have with the CIA because the State Department needs it desperately. And the State Department is our hope for peaceful settlements of difficult problems and putting our best foot forward early so we don't have to put our biggest foot forward late.

And if you can do that in college (ph) what you did at the CIA at the State Department, you'll be a great secretary would you commit to try and then replicate what you've done there already? And please feel free to brag about yourself.

POMPEO: Senator, I will. I'll actually do just the opposite of that.

What you described took place because of the talented officers, the expertise, the professionals at the Central Intelligence Agency. That is I had enormous human capital with which to build a team. And I know the State Department is the same way. I know the local employees, the civil service, the Foreign Service officers have that same spree, that same desire for admission and to be relevant, and to be important, and to do this. If you sign up to be a Foreign Service officer, you decide to devote your life to that, you have a special commitment.

And my task if I'm confirmed will be to free them up to go do the great work that they signed up to do when they came on board at the State Department. I'll work at that every day.

ISAKSON: Well, you just demonstrated by giving the credit to the employees at the CIA exactly why you were such a popular director there. And I'm sure it will continue at the State Department. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CORKER: Thank you. Thank you very much. Senator Booker.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Mr. Pompeo. I do want to say again I appreciate you coming by and showing me the respect and deference to give me some time yesterday so we could talk in private.

POMPEO: You're most welcome.

BOOKER: I want to pick up on one of the things we talked at length about, and that involves many of your past statements concerning Muslim-Americans. And perhaps I just want to start with some of your language, in a speech you talked about folks who worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism.

You sort of warned that we're living in a country where that happens. Do you have any views that the Muslim faith or people who believe in worshiping, "other gods"? Is that something negative in our country?

POMPEO: No, senator. I -- you can look at my record. You don't have to take my word for it here today. My record is exquisite with respect to treating people of each and every faith with the dignity they deserve, to protect their right to practice their religion or no religion for that matter, in the way they want to. I've done that when I ran their aerospace --

BOOKER: My time is limited so I'd like to follow up.

POMPEO: But it's important because I've heard these critiques and you raised it yesterday. I have worked closely with Muslim leaders, with Muslim countries. The CIA has seen countless, thousands of Muslim lives during my 15 months. This is at the core of who I am, Senator Booker. And I promise you that I will treat person of each person of faith or no faith with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

BOOKER: Your words right now are really encouraging words, do matter. It's not just actions in a nation of bigotry, where you see too much bigotry and hatred, you and I both know words matter. So I do understand your actions. And I will stipulate to the actions you just said. But I really want to get to the bottom of people who are going to be reading your past statements and give you a chance to further explain them. And I would like to go back to what we talked about, you and I, about this idea. And I'm quoting you, "that a special obligation falls on Muslims in regards to terrorist attacks in our country."

And you said something very dramatic. I know you know this. You said that, "people who are silent are complicit in those terrorist attacks." Do you think that Muslim Americans in this country who serve in our military, who serve in the State Department, their failure to speak up, is that their -- are they complicit in terrorist attacks?

POMPEO: Senator, each and every human, not just Americans, each and every human being has an obligation to push back against this extremist use of violence from whatever faith.

BOOKER: So you don't create a special class of people in this country based upon their religion that have a special obligation, as you said, to condemn terrorist attacks?

POMPEO: No, senator. Having said that, and you and I had a chance to talk about this yesterday. I'm not sure we ended up completely agreeing. But perhaps we did. I also do believe this firmly, that for certain places, for certain forms of violence, there are certain who are position, folks who are more credible, more trustworthy have a more shared experience.

And so when it comes to making sure we don't have terrorists brewing in places that where Muslims congregate, there is a special place, right? They have -- it's more than a duty, more than a required -- it's an opportunity, right, to be treated -- when someone from another faith says it, it can get characterized --

[12:50:03] BOOKER: So if I can go on because I have some more questions. So you think that Muslims in America who are in positions of leadership have a different category of obligation because of their religion. That's what I'm hearing you saying.

POMPEO: I don't see it. It's not an obligation. It's an opportunity, senator.

BOOKER: OK. So, it's interesting, because I would agree with you that silence in the face of injustice. We've seen this in the holocaust. We've seen this in the civil rights movement. I do agree with you that silence in the face of injustice lends strength to that injustice.

I do have a problem though when you start creating, dicing up American people and saying certain Americans, I don't care if it's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Muslims that serve on my staff, that they're in positions of leadership, that suddenly have a special obligation. I do believe though, all of us, when it comes to violent actions or even violent words have an obligation. And so I'm wondering, sir, do you know Frank Gaffney?

POMPEO: Yes. I do.

BOOKER: And you've been on his show dozens of times.

POMPEO: I was on his show some, yes, senator.

BOOKER: I have here over 20 times. And he has talked about Muslims should be -- who abide by the adherence of their faith should be considered -- should be tried for acts of extradition and should be prosecuted. Did you remain silent on his show? Did you ever question, because I have a lot of statements here. Did you remain silent on -- in his -- on my notes at least you're a friend of his. Were you silent in your position of authority against these words that are violative of the American constitution? Were you silent with him?

POMPEO: Senator, my record on this is unambiguous.

BOOKER: Sir, then -- so that's your response. You did not say anything to call out his remarks. What about Brigitte Gabriel, do you know her?

POMPEO: I do.

BOOKER: Someone who has been runs organization that has been once considered a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Have you -- we're you silent? Did you ever call her out on her remarks that are hateful and bigoted?

POMPEO: Sir, I've spoken to a number of groups. And I believe my record with respect to tolerance and --

BOOKER: Are you --

POMPEO: I think --

BOOKER: You never -- yes or no, did you ever call her out?

POMPEO: Senator, I couldn't tell you. I can't recall statements I've made over 54 years.

BOOKER: OK. Well, I believe the special obligation that you talk about for Americans who condemn things are attacking our constitution and our ideals would obligate you in your own definition to speak out. When it comes to --

POMPEO: Senator, if I might. I have called out. We had a terrible fellow in Kansas named Fred Phelps. I called him out.

BOOKER: Sir, I have a minute left. I have a minute left because I do want to give you a chance to speak about your comments on gay and lesbians. You said in a speech that morning in America that endorses perversion and calls it an alternative lifestyle, this is your words. Is being gay a perversion?

POMPEO: Senator, I -- when I was a politician I had a very clear view on whether it was appropriate for two same sex person to marry, I stand by that. BOOKER: So you do not believe it's appropriate for two gay people to marry?

POMPEO: Senator, I continue to hold that view as the same view. For the record --

BOOKER: And so people in the State Department, I met some in Africa that are married under your leadership. You do not believe that that should be allowed?

POMPEO: Senator, we have -- I believe it's the case we have married gay couples at the CIA. You should know I treated them with the exact same set of rights --

BOOKER: You believe gay sex is a perversion? Yes or no?

POMPEO: Senator, if I can --

BOOKER: Yes or no sir. Do you believe that gay sex is a perversion because this is what you said here under your speeches? Yes or no? Do you believe gay sex is a perversion?

POMPEO: Senator, I'm going to give you the same answer I just gave previously. My respect for every individual regardless of the sexual orientation is the same.

BOOKER: So I will conclude so --

POMPEO: -- if I'm confirmed.

BOOKER: I will conclude by saying, sir, you're going to be secretary of state in the United States. So the time that we have an increase in hate speech and hate action against Jewish-Americans, Muslim- Americans, Indian-Americans, hate acts are on increasing our nation. You're going to be representing this country and their values abroad in nation where gay individuals or under untold persecution, untold violence. Your views do matter.

You're going to be dealing with Muslim states and on Muslim issues. And I do not necessarily concur her that you are forth pouring the values of our nation when you can't even -- when you believe that there are people in our country that are perverse and where you think that you create different categories of Americans and their obligations when it comes to condemning violence. So I'll have another round. But thank you.

CORKER: Thank you. Senator Portman. Senator Paul, thank you, sir.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Thank you. Thanks for your testimony. And thanks for going through this grueling enterprise and your willingness to serve the country.

You discussed Senator Kaine a little bit about whether or not the president has the authority to bomb Assad's forces or installations in Syria. And mentioned historically well, we've done it in the past. I don't think that's a complete enough answer. I mean my question would be, do you think it's constitutional? Does the president have the constitutional authority to bomb Assad's forces? Does he have the authority absent congressional action to bomb Assad's forces or installations?

[12:55:18] POMPEO: Senator, I think I said to Senator Kaine, I'm happy to repeat my view on this. Those decisions are waiting. Every place we can, we should work alongside Congress to get that. But yes, I believe the president has the domestic authority to do that. I don't think that has been disputed by Republicans or Democrats throughout an extended period of time.

PAUL: Actually, it's disputed mostly by our founding fathers who believe they gave that authority to Congress and actually their uniformly oppose to the executive branch having that power. In fact, Madison wrote very specifically and said, the executive branch is the branch most prone to war. Therefore, we have with studied care best (ph) to that authority in a legislature.

So the fact we have in the past on this doesn't make it constitutional. And I would say that I take objection to the idea that the president can go to war when he wants, where he wants. With regard to Afghanistan, some have argued that it's time to get out of Afghanistan. What do you think?

POMPEO: Senator, I think the course of action that President Trump has taken there is the right one. It is humble in its mission. It understands that we've been there an awful long time and has an objective of leaving. But is not prepared to leave until such time where we can put America in a position where we can greatly diminish the threat to our homeland from terrorism that may emanate from there. And with an effort alongside that which will be required to achieve that first objective to create -- I want to be humble more stability in Afghanistan.

PAUL: Well, actually the president has been very specific at times on this. And he said it is time to get out of Afghanistan. We are building roads and bridges and schools for people that hate us. It is not in our national interest. That's a direct quote. So the president said, it was time to get out.

It sounds like you say it's time to stay. Is that a difference in opinion? Some here are worried that you're going to be too much in agreement with the president or actually where you're going to be too much in disagreement with the president.

One of the things I liked about the president is, he says, it is time to come home. Let's declare victory and come home. But it sounds to me like you're saying, we need to stay.

POMPEO: So it sounds like I have a Goldilocks problem, too close to far, different poudrage for each. Senator, the president also said in the summer at Fort Myer that he was committed to the mission that I outlined there. That's consistent with what secretary of state has been trying to do diplomatically. It's consistent with what Secretary Mattis has been trying to do by supporting the Afghan forces in the country. I believe then I share the president's view, that we have a continued role there. And well, I want to get out in the same way you do. I have friends who are serving that, my friends as I know you would know have been injured. We're not at a place yet where it's appropriate.

PAUL: Here's the problem is, are we ever going to be that place? I mean, so you've people in the administration yourself now saying in your written questions back to me that there's not a military solution. So we're sending our G.I.s out there who risk life and limb when there is no military solution hoping that we sounds a little bit like Vietnam, hoping that we get to a little position. Let's bomb the crap out of them to get them to negotiating. We'll get to a little better negotiation. In the end, it was no better in Vietnam. It was still a disaster in the very end.

And a lot of people wasted their lives in the end for that. I think that there is no military mission. And when you admit there's no military mission, it's hard for me to square with your desire still to stay. And we say, oh, we want to leave, but when? We've been there 18 years. I think we should declare victory and come home. I think we won the battle. We did. We literally did win. There is nobody left alive who plotted to attack us on 9/11.

I've asked people repeatedly, tell me the names of those left alive in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, anywhere in the world. We're now sending people to war who aren't even born when 9/11 was. And every administration comes, not just Republican, Democrats they in say, oh well, it's, you know, it's just fine, we're going to keep fighting these wars. And it's like it has something to do with 9/11. No, it has nothing to do with 9/11.

Everywhere around the world has radical Islamist. We now at war with because we said, oh, we got the permission to go at 9/11. But when you're in Congress, you had a little bit different position, you know. Your position now with Libya was that we should get authorization. Your position in 2013 was also -- you wrote an op-ed with Tom Cotton saying, well, we should give the president the authority he needs to go into Syria not because you were like me that we shouldn't get involved another war because you were eager to get involved.

And you wanted to give the president permission and say, please President Trump, let's go to war in Syria. But I think we need to think these things through. And we need to not be so carte blanche that the constitution does give just carte blanche, you know, permission for the president to do whatever he wants.

[13:00:03] Do you think the Iraq war was a mistake?

POMPEO: Sir, I was in machine shop in Kansas at the time. So don't have a contemporaneous view that I expressed.

PAUL: The opinions back then. How about opinions now?