Return to Transcripts main page
At This Hour
CIA Director, Mike Pompeo is Questioned in Senate Hearing to be Confirmed for Secretary of State. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired April 12, 2018 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POMPEO: The historic conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union and now Russia is caused by Russian bad behavior.
SHAHEEN: Thank you. When you were install as director at the CIA as you said in your testimony you swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. As you pointed out, you've taken that oath six times.
You've graduated from Harvard Law School magna cum laude, you're an attorney, do you think Special Counsel Mueller's investigation is a witch hunt?
POMPEO: Ma'am, I'm going to not speak about of the three investigations that I have been a participant in today.
SHAHEEN: Do you think the president has the authority? Recognizing your legal background, does the president have the authority to fire Special Counselor Mueller on his own?
POMPEO: Senator, I'm in no position to make a comment on that legal question.
SHAHEEN: Would you consider the president firing Rod Rosenstein over his role in the Special Counsel investigation to be an abuse of power?
POMPEO: Ma'am, I came here today to talk about my qualifications to be the secretary of state. I'm not going to weigh into the active investigations that are going on in the House and the Senate and the special counsel's investigation.
SHAHEEN: And I appreciate that. That's what we're all here to talk about, but the fact is in your testimony you talk about the actions of the administration making clear and rightfully identifying Russia as a danger to our country, and yet the president tweets out his opinion that the problem with Russia is Bob Mueller and the investigation. I think those two are in conflict and it's hard for me to understand how we can have a secretary of state who is able to go to Russia and come to Congress and talk about the challenges and the threats that Russia faces to our democracy, when we have this conflicting position from the president of the United States who you would work for.
And let me just say you talked about the actions that have been taken by this administration, but the fact is the sanctions that were passed overwhelmingly in the House and Senate, that had bipartisan support, have not been fully implemented by this administration. So we have mandatory sanctions related to Russian crude oil products that hasn't been implemented. We have sanctions with respect to Russian and other foreign financial institutions not implemented. Sanctions with respect to transactions with foreign sanction evaders and serious human rights abusers in the Russian Federation not implemented yet.
I could go on, but as the secretary of state will you argue that we need to go ahead and implement the rest of these sanctions in a way that holds Russia accountable for its interference?
POMPEO: Yes, ma'am, everyday and if I may take just a moment.
POMPEO: So there's still more work to be done on CAATSA. There are -- there's more work to be done on other sanctions provisions as well. I readily concede that Vladimir Putin has not yet received the message sufficiently, and we need to continue to work at that.
But it hasn't just been sanctions. The largest expulsion of 60 folks was from this administration. This administration announced a Nuclear Posture Review that has put Russia on notice that we're going to recapitalize our deterrence force in Syria.
Now a handful of weeks ago, the Russians met their match and a couple hundred Russians were killed. The list of actions that this administration has taken -- I'm happy to walk through each of them, but I don't want to take up...
SHAHEEN: And I appreciate that.
POMPEO: ...the list is pretty long, ma'am.
SHAHEEN: And I certainly agree with that and I think those actions are important, but they get undermined by a president who consistently refuses to hold Vladimir Putin accountable for what Russia has done in the United States and that presents a challenge as we go into the 2018 elections and it presents a challenge as we work with other democracies around the world where Russia has done everything possible to undermine Americans and other countries citizens believe in the workings of democracy.
In response to Senator Rubio, you talked about the importance of defending human rights as Secretary of State and certainly as Secretary of State, you would be this country's top diplomat representing America's values in support of diversity and inclusion.
And yet during your tenure in Congress you've made statements that have been described as anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT rights, so how would you, as Secretary of State, reconcile those positions and statements that you've taken in Congress with the need to represent America's values and defend human rights?
POMPEO: Senator I appreciate the question, look at my record not just these past 15 months. There were the same questions when I was to be confirmed as the CIA Director. As the CIA Director, I have honored and valued every single CIA officer regardless of race, color, you pick it gender, sexual orientation, I've treated every one of our offices with dignity and respect, I've promoted them when they deserve it I've held them accountable when they deserve that as well. I promise you that I'll do as the Secretary of State.
SHAHEEN: And I appreciate those sentiments and I appreciated your comments in your testimony saying that you would support the State Department's workforce that it be as diverse in every sense of the word; race, religion, background, and more and yet you were criticized at the CIA for undermining policies of the previous administration to improve diversity at the CIA.
POMPEO: Ma'am I don't know the criticism that you're referring to. I have to tell you, I didn't undermine a single policy. We have emphasized it; we've talked about it; we've worked on it. I think -- I'm proud of the work that I did to continue to develop and increase the capacity for the CIA to deliver a diverse workforce to meet the challenges -- the intelligence challenges in that case around the world.
SHAHEEN: Well I would just say, Michael Weinstein, who is a former Air Force Officer who founded the military Religious Freedom Foundation says that he has been seeing increasing complaints from those inside the intelligence community under your leadership so I think there have been a number of concerns raised.
POMPEO: Ma'am if I might?
POMPEO: The number of -- we call them no fear complaints, the statutory requirement decreased from 2016 to 2017 by 40 percent.
POMPEO: And I'm proud of that, it's not enough, whatever the final tally was, was too many, but I'm proud of the record, but not just -- I don't want to full credit for that, the work that my team has done on this, I'm incredibly proud of. I supported their efforts and will do the same -- I will behave the same way if I'm confirmed as the Secretary of State.
CORKER: Thank you.
SHAHEEN: Thank you, I'm out of time, thank you Mr. Chairman.
CORKER: Thank you, thank you so much. Before turning to Senator Johnson, I just wanted to highlight that I don't think enough has been said or made of the fact that Russia crossed the Euphrates with their own troops and were annihilated and it was really a strong statement that I don't think many are paying as much attention to as should and I appreciate you highlighting that -- incredible steps of our Pentagon. Senator Rubio -- I mean Senator Johnson.
JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Director Pompeo, thank you for your past service I also want to thank you and your family for your willingness to serve in this capacity, it is a sacrifice. As you we were walking by me, I mentioned that I've read a lot of testimony for nominees and this written testimony is probably as good as I've seen so anybody interested in this nomination should really read it.
One of the reasons I liked it, is I could see the concepts required for effective management in it and of course you're going to be in charge of managing relationships, but the concepts I'm talking about are -- well in your conclusion, the areas of agreement, that's how you accomplish things, concentrating on the shared purposes or the shared goals. Obviously in your handling of the CIA, you had a strategy in how you're going to manage that, prioritization...
WOFL BLITZER; CNN HOST: We're continuing to watch the confirmation hearing of Mike Pompeo, the CIA director to become the next Secretary of State. We'll take a quick break, we'll resume our special coverage in two minutes.
BLITZER: We're continuing our special coverage of Mike Pompeo, the president's nominee to become the next Secretary of State. He's answering Senator Ron Johnson's questions.
POMPEO: And where it comes into conflict with -- conflict with security issues, I'm -- I suppose it's highly factual and contextual but the -- the idea -- and, certainly, we've seen this with the issues with China today.
We thought through the risks, we identified relative priorities and attempted to level-set them. And then engaged in diplomatic activity such that -- that challenges that had been presented to China through the actions that have been taken by this administration over the past weeks, didn't upset the apple cart with the good work that the Chinese have done, helping us on the North Korea challenge.
JOHNSON: Do you agree with me that in our relationship with China, our top priority is their cooperation on North Korea?
POMPEO: It is.
JOHNSON: I mean, currently?
POMPEO: It is -- it is. Today, that's the number one priority for this administration and I agree with that...
JOHNSON: Would you agree that, in terms of the best way to bring China into full compliance with all the trade agreements, that working with the other -- our other trading partners, having a good relationship with them and -- and having us as an alliance, working with China and make sure that they actually follow the rules. Would that also be probably the best way to achieving that?
POMPEO: I do believe that, Senator.
JOHNSON: What do you think -- again, I went over to China. I really wanted to hear their perspective. What do you think their primary goal is? What is their strategy, what are they trying to achieve?
JOHNSON: And let -- let me just say the three things they listed to us: bring a billion people out of poverty, improve their environment and avoid a financial crisis. Those -- those are their three top priorities that they told us.
POMPEO: Senator, I've heard similar things. I -- I've actually -- and -- in my interactions have heard the economic crisis listed first, that as they have this challenge of leverage inside of China today, they've got to wind their way out of and they've got to do it through economic growth.
That's -- that was their priority. That has the secondary benefit that you described, for bringing the next several hundred million people into middle-class China. When I've spoken with them, those were their two fundamental priorities.
JOHNSON: So they have enormous challenges. So I guess one -- one of my points being is, rather than look at our relationship with China as a -- a win-lose situation, it sure makes an awful lot of sense to me is, try and redefine that and try and obtain a win-win situation. Would you agree with that?
POMPEO: Senator, I -- I would agree that in most situations in the world, with a handful of exceptions, there are opportunities to not make the negotiation, the diplomacy, a zero-sum game. And I have -- with respect to China in particular, I know that's true.
JOHNSON: So to quickly switch to Russia, I think it's a historic tragedy that Putin has taken this path. Can you describe in your words, what path has he taken? What is -- what is Russia's aims?
POMPEO: I -- I'll take Vladimir Putin at his word, that the greatest failure of the 20th century was the dissolution of the Soviet Union. I think he believes that in his heart, and I think you see his actions follow from that.
Attempts to regain power through -- and to maintain his power, to maintain his popularity through activity taking place outside, by poking America. To maintain his -- not only capability and enormous nuclear arsenal -- arsenal, but also -- also his desire to be perceived as such. As being perceived as a superpower.
So I think all -- each of the actions you take are to undermine democracy in the West such that the Soviet model, the now-Russian model, is the one that is painted to the world as the one that will lead the world to greatness. We know that's not true and we can't let that happen.
JOHNSON: So to prevent that from happening, we need the full engagement, particularly in Europe but any -- anywhere Russia is -- is pushing and being aggressive.
For example, in the Balkans.
I've been over to Serbia, Kosovo, a number of times. I think they're at a hinge point. I want to encourage you -- I -- I think your Assistant Secretary Mitchell's done a great job of, certainly, encouraging all of us to pay attention so that they decide to continue to look to the west because Russia offers them nothing.
Can -- you just quick comment?
POMPEO: Senator, I would agree. I would add to that, when -- when you say, "everywhere," I would add, too, locations we see them being adventuresome, is Latin America as well.
So I -- I agree. We need to push back in each place that we confront them in, by every vector: cyber, economic. Each -- each of those -- each of those tools that Vladimir Putin -- Putin is using, we need to do our best to make sure that he doesn't succeed in what we believe his ultimate goal is.
JOHNSON: Again, thank you for your willingness to serve.
CORKER: Thank you. Thank you very much.
COONS: Thank you, Chairman Corker.
Thank you, Director Pompeo, for you willingness to step forward and once again serve our country. To your family and to you for a what has been a long career of public service in United States military, as an elected official, as the director of the CIA, and now for this position.
I appreciated the conversation we had yesterday, and the opportunity follow up on some of the issues we discussed. And I am optimistic, you would follow through in your commitment to fight for the State Department, for USAID, for resources and their personnel.
I think many of us on this committee have heard, over the last 15 months, real concerns about management, morale, budget cuts and the State Department USAID. And I am optimistic, you would fight for those professionals and you'd respect their service.
I'm also well aware, you have a strong and close relationship with the president. And as we discussed, I think a key role for America's chief -- chief diplomat is to advance not just our narrow interests, our security or economic interests, but to also see our values as being a key part of those interests.
And I hope that you will both advise the president and, on occasion, stand up to him if he is doing things with which you disagree, and that you will ensure that he considers the vital role of diplomacy in responding to the threats we face around the world.
So let me just follow up, if I might, for a moment, on a line of questioning two of my colleagues pursued. You are a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School. I couldn't get into Harvard. I went to Yale Law School.
And as such, I'd assume that you'd agree that rule of law is absolutely essential to the values that define our democracy. Is that correct?
POMPEO: Senator, you -- I only spoke publicly six, five times as the CIA director. Each time I spoke publicly, I spoke to -- and maybe there's an exception, but each time I spoke at some length about the importance of the rule of law at the CIA, how we were a creature of law, and how if we didn't do that the fundamental failure that that would lead to. I believed it as the CIA director, I believed it all of my life, and I'll believe it as the secretary of state, if I'm confirmed as well, Senator.
COON: Well, and I think you made a strong statement, that if confirmed, it'd be the seventh time you've raised your hand in swearing oaths to the Constitution.
So let me just go back to a line of questioning. President Trump described Special Counsel Mueller's investigation as an attack on what we all stand for, and he has repeatedly threatened to fire Robert Mueller. He's threatened the investigation. He's threatened the Attorney General in his tweets in ways that I find troubling. Do you believe Special Counsel Mueller's investigation is an attack on our country and all we stand for?
POMPEO: Sir, I hope you'll take -- I hope you'll take this the right way. As the Director of the CIA I've been involved in that investigation. I've worked with Senators Burr and Warner and with Congressmen on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; I have been a participant in Special Counsel Mueller's activity. I think anything I say with respect -- I want to avoid that today.
I apologize that I can't speak more fully to that but I hope you'll respect the fact that everything that I was asked to do in my role of CIA Director related to any of these investigation that I've done with as much thoroughness, as much depth and much alacrity as our organization could achieve. COONS: I'm convinced that if the President were to fire the Special
Counsel or to interfere with his investigation by firing Rod Rosenstein with an intention to then interfere with and shutdown this investigation that it would put the rule of law genuinely at risk. If that were the case, and if that happened, would you resign your post as Secretary of State in order to demonstrate that we are a nation of laws not of men?
POMPEO: Senator, I haven't given that question any thought. My instincts tell me no. My instincts tell me that my obligation to continue to serve as America's senior diplomat will be more important at increased times of political domestic turmoil. We've seen this in America before, right? This wouldn't be the time that there's been enormous political turmoil.
My recollection of the history is that previous secretaries have stayed -- stayed the course, continued to do their work, continued to do the work statutory and constitutional that they had. Having not given it, having not given it a great deal of thought, I'm confident that that's the path that I would take.
COONS: Well, Director Pompeo, I'd urge you to give it some thought. Many of us are giving it some real thought and have to do so for months and it is regrettable I think that we're in a place where we're seriously discussing this rather than diving into the policy questions that face us around the world.
But I think there are moments when our values and what we do teaches to the world and whether the right course is to resign or to engage and to speak out against it and to counsel against it, and to then work to restore the rule of law we could debate. But I think it's vital that we have as our chief diplomat, someone who understands our values as I believe you do and who is willing to fight for them, even by taking dramatic steps like a resignation in order to signal vigorous disapproval of what the President's done or might do.
Let me move onto another area if I might. When discussing Saddam Hussein, President Trump has said and I quote, "He was a bad guy, a really bad guy but you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn't read them their rights. They didn't talk. They were terrorist. It was over."
Well we could debate whether or not Saddam Hussein was a good guy or bad guy. I think it's important, this is another example much like something we discussed, the President of the Philippines and his conduct. We're challenging an ally. We're challenging of the historical record on behalf of our rights is important and our values. So, to what extent do you think that actions that curtail human rights and erode processes like to due process and the rule of law by foreign governments actually fuels instability, strengthens terrorist threats that when we are perceived as being on the side of a quick and violent result rather than the rule of law and a just result, it actually makes us less safe. POMPEO: Senator I -- I -- I think I agree -- if I understood the premise of your question correctly, I think -- I think I agree with it as laid out, but I'll try and repeat it for you and see if I got it right.
I agree. American behavior matters. The way we behave around the world, our activities, the things we choose to do and not to do matter. They are reflective. You know one of the best memories I've had so far as CIA Director is I was with a partner intelligence service leader who'd been at this a lot longer than I had and we were walking in a dusty place, and see I'd done great work alongside them. They'd been a great partner for us as well.
He turned to me and he said, you know the most important thing that America has done for my team? It's great that you give us some help. It's great that you teach us some technology and some tools. The most important thing you've done for us is you've set an example. CIA officers behaving professionally, having boundaries, existing under the rule of law, communicating, all the professional behavior that your offices have exhibited has been the most important thing you've done for our organization. You've made us better.
And so to your point, I think that's an example where put aside the policy or the work that we did, the substantive work we did, it was America's norms that were -had proven truly valuable to this foreign partner. I was incredibly proud to be the Director.
COONS: I'm glad to hear that example and to hear you repeat our shared commitment to the rule of law as a core American value. But I do think that we are in a time when we are going to have to confront questions about what we are willing to do in order to demonstrate our fealty to the rule of law as a foundational principle of our country. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
CORKER: Thank you. Just to give everyone the state of play, it's my understanding we may have a vote at two o'clock so we won't have one soon. It's my plan just to keep going. So until that time if our witness needs to take a break for other reasons, Mary Elizabeth (ph), just text Todd (ph) and we'll make that happen. And with that, Senator Flake.
POMPEO: Any good diplomat can outlast the folks he's talking to senator.
CORKER: I noticed you haven't been drinking any water.
FLAKE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, director, for the testimony so far. I had to pop out for other hearings so I apologize if I plow any old ground. But can we talk about Iran for a minute? With the JCPOA, Iran has already realized much of the benefit from this agreement in terms of money being released. Is that correct?
POMPEO: They have received great benefit from the JCPOA -- economic benefit from the JCPOA. Yes, that's correct. FLAKE: If we were to somehow get out of the agreement, would there be
an attempt to claw some of that money back?
POMPEO: Senator, I haven't considered that.
FLAKE: I don't think that there is going to be...
POMPEO: I -- I would think that unlikely.
POMPEO: There's not a tool inside the agreement to achieve that.
FLAKE: Right. That's my understanding as well. So the effects -- Iran has already realized much of the benefit from the agreement, but if we were to exit the agreement now we would give them reason to renege on the agreements that they have made on the nuclear side. Is that right?
POMPEO: Senator, they're still receiving enormous economic benefits even as we sit here this morning. So -- so there is continued -- so there is continued interest on the part of Iran to stay in this deal. It's in their own economic self-interest to do so. And I guess I'd add, Iran wasn't racing to a weapon before the deal. There is no indication that I'm aware of that if the deal no longer existed that they would immediately turn to racing to create a nuclear weapon today.
FLAKE: Well, my concern is certainly that they have realized the benefit to the agreement and I voted against the agreement. I applauded the last President for negotiations. I thought that it should have been presented as a treaty before this body. I think it would have been a better agreement and something that I could have supported. But now that it is in effect and Iran has realized the benefits of it economically, I -- I think we ought to think long and hard about giving Iran now the ability if we exit the agreement, to continue on on the nuclear side and not uphold the obligations that they agreed to under the treaty. I know that that's being considered.
And then the other with regard to North Korea, I am happy that the President is -- is talking and discussions at the highest level are had. I've always agreed that Presidents and Secretaries of State and others ought to talk to rogue leaders.
And so -- but I am concerned, I think a lot of Americans are, that these discussions that usually take place in that regard at the head of state level are proceeded by a lot of negotiations, meetings and deliberation by people like yourself and your able diplomats who, if your confirmed, you'll have at the State Department.
Do you have some of those concerns as well hat this first meeting that's being discussed, will take place perhaps prematurely before the hard negotiations that must be done by skilled diplomats you know simply will not have been done? POMPEO: Senator, there -- there is work being done today in preparation for the president's proposed meeting with Kim Jong-un so American people you should know that there's work being done in preparation for that.
The president's view has been, and I agree with him, that the model we have used previously, long negotiations to get the two leaders to the table, hasn't happened. We haven't had that opportunity to have these two leaders to sit together to try to resolve this incredible, vexing, difficult challenge.
So the president's judged that if the two of them -- there'll be lots of work to do. No one is under any illusions that we will -- we will reach a comprehensive agreement through the President's meeting. But to enable; to set out -- to set out the conditions that would be acceptable to each side for the two leaders that will ultimately make the decision about whether such an agreement can be achieved and then set in place.
I'm optimistic that the United States government can set the conditions for that appropriately so that the President and the North Korean leader can have that conversation will set us down the course of achieving a diplomatic outcome that America so desperately -- America and the world so desperately need.
FLAKE: Is there some concern that exiting the Iran agreement might play poorly with regard to a possible agreement with the North Koreans. It would seem that if you're the North Korean leader or negotiators on that side they might be concerned that our reliability in terms of signing an agreement if the next president can simply exit it.
POMPEO: Senator, while I concede we don't know precisely what Kim Jong-un is contemplating, how's he thinking about his option set today, I've read lots of the analysis with respective to what his concerns --and how he's thinking about the challenge he faces today with the enormous economic pressure that has been placed upon him and the list of things that he is thinking about don't involve other deals throughout history.
It's not - it's not the case he's focused. How he did - we pull out of the start treaty. He's thinking about how it is he can set the conditions so that we - while we talk about complete verifiable reversal his nuclear program.
He's thinking about the sustainment of his regime. What are the tools, what are the assurances that can be put in place that are reversible? He's gong to be looking for something more than a piece of paper.
He's going to be looking for a set of conditions to be put in place so that he can undertake a task, denuclearizing his country for decades no one believed could occur.