Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Pompeo Hearings. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 12, 2018 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: Put in place so that he can undertake a task. Denuclearizing his country that for decades no one believed could occur.


Turning to Africa for a minute. Senator Coons and I just traveled to four countries in Africa, including Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's going through a transition. They have a new leader. Elections are scheduled for July and August and we don't have an ambassador there.

Will you commit to ensure that we have an ambassador on the ground? I know a lot of that depends on us, but we tend to move it through as quickly as we can in this committee. But an ambassador on the ground in Zimbabwe when that transition occurs -- the elections are held?

POMPEO: Yes, senator, it will -- actually the first instance depend on me and the president to get a nomination to you, and I commit to doing that post-haste if confirmed.

FLAKE: All right. Thank you.

I'll take off line additional questions on Cuba. We've had some private discussions on this. I'm concerned in a similar vein that we have just a skeletal staff there at the embassy given the issues that occurred there. But I think that it's an important time there. We're going to have a non-Castro head of state for the first time later this month.

POMPEO: Next week. Yes.

FLAKE: And so, anyway, if we could beef that staff up, it would be great as well.

Thank you, Mike.

POMPEO: Thank you.


Senator Udall.

SEN. TOM UDALL (D), NEW MEXICO: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

And thank you for your service, Director Pompeo. And we really appreciate having your family here and look forward to you answering our questions.

I want to follow up -- I've worked with Senator Flake quite a bit on Cuba and follow up on the Cuba issue.

Cuba's about to choose its first leader, who is not a Castro, yet the U.S. presence in the country has been reduced significantly. And as a result, other countries are filling this vacuum.

Will you work to help improve ties with Cuba, a relationship that benefits many states hoping to increase trade with the island? As you know, when I visited with you in my office, I talked about how many governors have gone to Cuba and said -- with their agricultural folks, and said, we -- we -- Cuba has 11 million people. We want to sell food products to them, agricultural products to them. So will you work to improve ties with Cuba?

POMPEO: Senator, I recall joking with you about Kansas wheat. The answer to your question is, yes. Senator Flake had asked about the ambassador, the diplomatic presence there. I think everyone's aware of some of the concerns. But I assure you and I'll assure Senator Flake as well, we will, consistent with making sure we can keep -- keep these folks safe, we will -- we will build out a team there that will deliver American diplomacy to Cuba in a way that represents the finest of America.

UDALL: Now, as you know, U.S. Internet companies, Cuba has very, very little Internet capacity. And this is one of the things, I think, really could open Cuba up to the world. Do you believe the United States companies should lead the effort to help bring the Internet to Cuba?

POMPEO: Sir, that question sounds like there may be something buried there that I'm not aware of. So if there --


POMPEO: If I might --

UDALL: Now, come on.

POMPEO: So at the risk of demonstrating ignorance, I'd prefer the chance to talk to my experts at the State Department and work my way through it.

UDALL: OK. And it's -- there's nothing really trick there. I mean I -- I've worked with a number of the members of this committee and others outside the committee to try to push the effort to have the Internet be a big part of what our first push in Cuba.

As you know very well, and we talked about this in my office, too, the State Department and Defense Department work hand in glove on these crucial issues. And the job of the State Department is to try to make sure we don't get into unnecessary wars. Your work, I think, is to work hard at diplomacy, search for peace, do what we can and make sure that we don't get into another war. Are you committed to robust diplomacy, as our ranking member, Senator

Menendez, talked about, and commit to doing everything you can to prevent future wars?

POMPEO: Yes, sir.

UDALL: Thank you.

I'm going to follow up also on -- several members on the Iran deal.

Director Pompeo, the Iran deal has effectively cut off all pathways to an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Compliance has been certified repeatedly by the International Atomic Energy Agency and both Israeli and U.S. intelligence agencies, one of which you oversee. Yet you have said that, and I quote here, Iran will have the freedom to build an arsenal of nuclear weapons at the end of the commitment, end quote.

[12:05:15] However, even when the joint comprehensive plan of action sunsets under the current deal, Iran will still remain a signatory of the non-proliferation treaty and a party to the IAEA's additional protocol. IAEA inspectors are not going anywhere. And if they did, the United States and the global community would have ample time to react to any breakout. And, in fact, the international community, through the secretary general, spoke out as to the importance of the JCPOA very recently.

In view this position, in light of your apparent support for U.S. policy of regime change in Iran, really the contrast there really upsets me. In 2014, you said you would have preferred military strikes to the JCPOA. And I quote here, this is your quote, it is under 2,000 sorties to destroy the Iranian nuclear capacity. This is not an insurmountable task for the coalition forces, end quote.

Is this your current position and are you for a first military strike?

POMPEO: I'm not, senator. I'm absolutely not. I don't think that's what I said that day. I have to go back and review.

With respect to the quote that you provided, I know a little bit more about what it would take today. But it -- in terms of what I described as the capacity to achieve what I was speaking to that day, I think -- I think I'm still pretty close. But there is no doubt that this administration's policy and my view is that the solution to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, to finding ourselves in the same place we are in North Korea in Iran is through diplomacy.

UDALL: Yes. Do you have any evidence to dispute the IAEA assessment that Iran is in full compliance with the JCPOA?

POMPEO: Senator, with the information that I've been provided, I have no -- I've seen no evidence that they are not in compliance today. I think the -- I think your question is, do you have any? The answer is no.

UDALL: Yes. And I would just hope -- I'm very near to the end of my time here, but I would just hope that you understand that the international community and the United States working together is what got us to the point where we are. And so I think it would be very unfortunate if we're the one that pulls back and sets the stage for a very chaotic future.

Thank you very much.

POMPEO: Thank you, Senator Udall.

UDALL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CORKER: Before turning to Senator Gardner, on that note, do you have any sense that Chancellor Merkel and Macron's visit here will -- that subject matter will be discussed? They will be here before May 12th.

POMPEO: I have not seen the agenda, but I'd be shocked if it didn't come up.

CORKER: And so there's still the possibility of the three that matter coming together on a framework. And as we get closer to that time, maybe people will be a little more focused on that occurring.

POMPEO: Senator, I -- having had some interactions with my European counterparts, I am confident that issue will be discussed at some length. It's important to them, and I know they'll raise their hopes and concerns when they travel here to the United States in the coming days.

CORKER: Senator Gardner.

SEN. CORY GARDNER (R), COLORADO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Director Pompeo, congratulations on the nomination. To your family, thank you for your commitment to service. This is no easy task that you are about to take -- take a part of, and I appreciate your willingness to serve our country once again. Thank you.

Director Pompeo and I had an incredible opportunity to serve together in the House Energy and Commerce Committee for a number of years.

POMPEO: We were with Senator Markey.

GARDNER: And there are several of us on this committee. And we --

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're going to take another very, very quick break. We'll resume our special coverage of this confirmation hearing in two minutes.


[12:11:16] BLITZER: We're continuing our special coverage on the secretary of state nominee Mike Pompeo answering questions from Corey Gardner on Asia.

GARDNER: Could you share with me some of the priorities you think should be in a comprehensive Asia policy? POMPEO: Oh, goodness. So -- so, step one, obviously, is diplomacy,

making sure that there aren't mistakes. That we don't -- we don't talk past each other. We don't end up -- you talked about the (INAUDIBLE) trap, the ability to avoid that almost certainly depends on the capacity for the two nations to speak to the things that they have as their central interest, their core interest, then those things that are our second order of importance, where cooperation will be the mark of the day. I think diplomacy leads that effort.

As I think we all would agree, absent a strong America, the rest of the things pale in comparison. We've got to make sure we have robust economic growth. The underpinnings of our capacity to have the leverage to achieve good, diplomatic outcomes depend on that. And so we need to make sure that America does the things it needs to do so we have not just 2018, '19 and '20, but a long-term horizon of economic prosperity.

GARDNER: And I think you would agree with me as well that the creation of a long term policy, a generational policy, so to speak, on Asia, an Indo-Pacific strategy, is what we need, not just a four-year, eight- year presidential term strategy.

POMPEO: No, that's -- that's why -- that's why what you describe is important because when questions get asked about China, we can never forget that they live in a complicated region with lots of countries with widely bearing interest and a Chinese government that is intent on expanding their capacity to have not only economic influence in those countries, but using that economic tool to achieve political influence in those countries as well. We need a thoughtful, long-term strategy that prevents that from taking place.

GARDNER: And we'll get into China a little bit more either now or during the next round of questions. But I think it's important to note that even today China has announced live fire exercises in the Taiwan Straits. We've seen the clear militarization of the South China Sea. And these are just a few of the challenges we have that have been, you know, lingering for a number of years, but certainly increasing in their importance today.

I want to shift right now, though, to North Korea. Do you agree with Secretary Mattis that North Korea is the most urgent security threat the United States faces?


GARDNER: This committee has led the efforts over the past several years to increase maximum pressure on North Korea and the Kim Jong-un regime with passage of legislation, the North Korea Sanctions Policy Enhancement Act, and also working together to assure maximum pressure is applied. Senator Markey and I have introduced legislature known as The Lead Act, the leverage to enhance effective diplomacy, which would impose a trade embargo on Pyongyang and its enablers.

Will the administration's maximum pressure and engagement policy mean a continued pursuit of third party entities and financial institutions who engage in significant trade with Pyongyang? POMPEO: Yes.

GARDNER: Will you commit to advance this Lead Act and others like it that include mandatory sanctions against these entities?

POMPEO: Well, I'm not familiar with the details.

GARDENER: It's a great bill.

POMPEO: The president has made clear the continuation of the pressure campaign is the tool that enables the opportunity to achieve a successful diplomatic outcome in North Korea.

GARDNER: And, briefly, we have about a minute left here. Can you share with me the exact goals of the presidential summit between the United States and North Korea?

POMPEO: Yes, I believe I can. It is to develop an agreement with the North Korean leadership such that the North Korean leadership will step away from its efforts to hold America at risk with nuclear weapons, completely and verifiably.

GARDNER: To be clear, again, the only goal the United States has as it relates to North Korea is the complete, verifiable, irreversible, denuclearization of the North Korea -

[12:15:06] POMPEO: I want to be careful about complete. North Korea also has a significant military arsenal. One of the largest army's in the world. We need to insure that we continue to provide a strategic deference framework for our allies in the region, the South Koreans, the Japanese and others as well. But the purpose of the meeting is to address this nuclear threat to the United States.

GARDNER: And our goal remains the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization? That's what (INAUDIBLE) --

POMPEO: Yes, sir, that's correct.

GARDNER: Thank you.

Mr. Chairman.

CORKER: Thank you.

Senator Kaine.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Director Pompeo, congratulations for this nomination.

During the negotiation over the Iran nuclear deal of 2014, you opposed the deal and you stated, quote, it's under 2,000 sorties to destroy the Iranian nuclear capacity. This is not an incomprehensible task for the coalition forces.

A number of people opposed the deal, but you were somewhat unique in publically venturing the thought that military action might be preferable to a deal or easy to a deal -- easier than some folks were suggesting. Where did you get the notion that destroying Iran's nuclear capacity could be accomplished with 2,000 air sorties?

POMPEO: That was based on the things that I had learned as a member of Congress.

KAINE: You -- your military career and as a member of the House Intel Committee?

POMPEO: Senator, yes, I think that's right. I'm trying to remember the timing of the statement. I think I would have been serving on the Intelligence Committee at that point in time.

KAINE: Would you have -- did -- at that time did you have any reluctance to share that assessment publicly? That seems like a pretty specific sort of an assessment to say I'm confident in our capacity is one thing, to publicly discuss that it would be 2,000 sorties to wipe out the Iranian nuclear capacity struck me as odd. Did you have any reluctance to share that at the time?

POMPEO: Senator, that wasn't -- there's no classified information was contained in that simple statement.

KAINE: Wouldn't that sort of specificity probably rely on an awful lot of classified information or (INAUDIBLE)?

POMPEO: Senator, I was -- 2,000 is a pretty big, round number. I -- there was -- this wasn't -- this wasn't -- there was no effort here to make any specifics. It might have been a thousand. It might have been 3,000, right? I wasn't -- there was no aim here to communicate it.

But I actually -- to your point --

KAINE: Well, you weren't trying to be inaccurate in your statement?

POMPEO: No, no, senator, absolutely not. I never -- I never try to do that.

But if I might, and we may disagree about this, senator, I do think it's important -- I absolutely think it's important to provide diplomats with the opportunity to be successful, countries that are adverse to us don't often exceed to our desires absent a rationale for doing so, right? So diplomats --

KAINE: Well, let me ask you --

POMPEO: Diplomats without any -- without any strength, diplomats without any capacity are just sitting there talking.

KAINE: Well, and I -- I agree. I think stating that we have a lot of capacity is one thing. I was just struck by the specificity.

Would it be your norm to share that kind of information publicly in such specific detail?

POMPEO: Senator, I'm confident if I had done it multiple times, you'd raise them with me here today.

KAINE: Your assessment -- I wonder whether your assessment -- did you assume that Iran might respond to an attack by the United States, or were you just assuming that they would do nothing?

POMPEO: Senator, I don't know that I was -- I don't know in the context of that statement that I was thinking about --

KAINE: But you would agree with me that the extent of force that the U.S. would need to use to destroy Iran's nuclear capacity would depend pretty significantly on whether Iran would fight to protect against an attack on its own soil?

POMPEO: Oh, yes. Absolutely, senator.

KAINE: And then you ventured that the attack would not be an insurmountable task for our coalition -- for coalition forces. And I'm curious about that too. Most of our coalition forces in 2014 were sitting around the table with us trying to do a peaceful negotiation to end Iran's nuclear capacity. It sounds as if you had confidence that the U.S. could not do a deal and then convince coalition partners to join us in bombing Iran.

I'm curious what coalition partners you were thinking about as you made that comment.

POMPEO: Senator, I wasn't -- I wasn't thinking of any particular coalition partners when I made that statement.

KAINE: OK. Those comments, when I heard them about the relative ease of a war against Iran, reminded me of the run-up to the Iraq War. Vice President Cheney said we'd be greeted as liberators. The president said there were definitely weapons of mass destruction. Secretary Rumsfeld said the invasion would largely be self-financing. It would last, quote, five weeks or five months. It certainly is not going to last any longer.

Of course we know that the cost to the United States was 4,400 soldiers dead, 500,000 Iraqis dead, a price tag now topping $3 trillion, and unprecedented turmoil in the region. And most of those facts were known at the time that you made that statement in 2014.

Let me say this. I'm one of two senators who served on both the Foreign Relations and the Armed Services Committees. I represent a state that's deeply committed to the nation's military mission. I have a son in the military. I honor your military service, your entire public service.

[12:20:00] I think my mission on these two committees is sort of two things. Dramatically reduce the risk of unnecessary war, raise the probability that we decisively win any war that we need to be in.

I also firmly believe that we shouldn't be at war without a vote of Congress. And your actions as a House member suggested that you and I probably see this somewhat the same way. In 2011, I criticized President Obama for putting us into military

action against Libya without a vote. And you voted twice to oppose military action unless it was authorized by Congress.

In 2014, President Obama came to this committee to ask for the military authority to strike Syria. You supported that in the House. I supported it here in the Senate. The committee supported it.

Now, President Trump has fired -- ordered missile strikes fired at Syria last year. He didn't seek congressional approval. The U.S. conducted airstrikes against the Syrian military in February without congressional approval. The president is tweeting that he might do additional military strikes in Syria now, and he's also aiming words directly at Russia.

As far as I know, Syria has not declared war against the United States. Has Congress given the president specific authority to wage war against Syria?

POMPEO: Senator, I think you and I actually do share similar -- similar bias for the executive and legislative branches, both to be involved when such momentous decisions about war are undertaken. I -- I -- now that I'm in the executive branch, my views on that have not changed.

KAINE: And you would agree with me that waging a war requires both a domestic and an international legal justification?

POMPEO: Yes. Yes. Yes, senator, I would.

With respect -- you asked about a specific -- I don't want to dodge your very specific question.


POMPEO: You asked about Syria.

For a long time, multiple administrations have found that the president has authority to act and take certain actions without first coming to Congress to seek approval. Whether it was Kosovo -- the list from Democrats and Republicans is long and like --

KAINE: Let me -- I want to ask --

POMPEO: I -- just to close, I share your view. In each case where it is -- where we can -- we, America, and our soldiers and sailors, airmen, marines are better off if we have the entirety of the United States government working together and having authorized the activity.

KAINE: For the past year I've been trying to secure the administration's detailed legal justification for last April's strikes on the Sharad (ph) military base in Syria. The administration has not fully provided it. And there is reportedly a memo that is laying out a description of what the president or the administration feels are the appropriate executive powers. Would you support the release of the non-classified portion of that memo to Congress so that we can see what the president thinks his powers are and engage in a productive dialogue about that?

POMPEO: Sir, I learned about this memo -- I think you shared -- I think you shared it with me. I was unaware of that. I promise I'll work alongside you to do the best I can to get you that information. And if it's a classified version of it, you have a right as a member of the legislative branch to see, I'll work to get you that. And if it's an unclassified version, we'll work to achieve that as well.

KAINE: Excellent. Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

CORKER: Thank you. Before turning to Senator Young, so then specifically, a surgical strike against -- let's just use the last one that occurred with 59 tomahawk missiles -- do you believe that does require an authorization from Congress?

POMPEO: Senator, multiple administrations have taken those kinds of activities under the president's authority.


So I was ranking member when our chairman and I and the committee wrote an authorization with the use of force against Syria that, unfortunately, was not used and has changed the course of history, unfortunately, and displaced millions of people and hundreds of thousands of people are dead. And not to say that that would have necessarily prevented all of that, but certainly would have changed the trajectory significantly.

I agree with you, and I've shared that with the president just in the last very short period of time, that I do not believe that should he choose to take a surgical strike against Syria, that an authorization from us is necessary just based on a body of evidence that we have and the things that have occurred in the past. And, I, like you, oppose strongly what we did in Libya. And I think that's complicating our efforts in North Korea because of obvious reasons.

So with that, Senator Young.

SEN. TODD YOUNG (R), INDIANA: Welcome, Mr. Director. And congratulations on your nomination.

I'm -- my point of emphasis as I start here won't be on trying to identify --

BLITZER: We're going to continue our special coverage, but we have to take a quick break. We'll resume the Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing for Mike Pompeo to become the secretary of state in two minutes.


[12:27:02] BLITZER: Republican Senator Todd Young of Indiana continuing the questioning of Mike Pompeo. YOUNG: Property, a forced technology transfer and associated

activities. You also mentioned just moments ago that China is using mostly economic tools against us to achieve broader geopolitical, geostrategic ends.

Do you believe these policies by Beijing have already undermined? And if they continue unabated, will continue to undermine our ability as a country to realize our potential for economic growth, to incentivize investment in key technologies and key sectors of our economy and to sustain the financial wherewithal that is required to defend our country and advance our values worldwide?

POMPEO: Yes, senator, I do. I think those risks are real. I think they're honest today. That is, I think we're in the midst of that. This is not some future risk that's presented to the country. I think we have to confront it today. When -- most directly -- most directly on point is the enormous amount of intellectual property that has left the hands. Sometimes taken, sometimes coerced out of the hands of U.S. companies. The imagination and creativity of the American workforce has delivered it and the Chinese have taken it away from us. We have to develop a robust set of tools, siphious (ph) here, domestic, there's a bunch of tools that we need and to do that well such that we can prevent that from continuing to happen in the future.

YOUNG: Well, relatedly, earlier you spoke of the need for my words, a China strategy. So my sense is you believe we need a whole of government, well-coordinated, informed, strategic response to China's coercive, elicit and deceptive economic and trade practices, is that correct?

POMPEO: That is correct senator, yes.

YOUNG: Well, I do too. And that's why I intend to introduce this month some legislation on this very topic. I'm going to require, though this legislation, working with my colleagues and the administration, the periodic production of a national economic security strategy. I'd welcome the opportunity to work with the administration, you in particular, and any colleague who share these goals. I think we'll get this across the line. It's needed now more than ever.

Do you believe that a U.S. response, Mr. Director, to China will be more effective if we assemble a multilateral coalition of allies and key trade partners who also suffered due to Beijing's economic policies and trade practices to create a unified, international front to apply maximum pressure on Beijing to achieve our objectives, as opposed to a merely bilateral dynamic which I perceive we have now.

POMPEO: I agree with that. I mean, conceptually, if we can get the countries of southeast Asia, more broadly in 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.

[12:30:10] YOUNG: Mr. Director, given the challenges we confront in -- with Russia