WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s pick to run the CIA faces a Senate confirmation hearing amid a testy standoff between the president-elect and the spy community.
Rep. Mike Pompeo, a four-term conservative Kansas Republican, is a member of the House intelligence committee and also served on the partisan committee to investigate the deadly attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. He was expected to be on the receiving end of questions from a friendly group of fellow lawmakers Thursday.
If confirmed as CIA director, Pompeo could be caught in the role of mending relations between Trump and intelligence officials.
Trump has for the most part been dismissive of intelligence agencies’ findings that Russia, specifically President Vladimir Putin, meddled 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 No. 1 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.