Rep. Mike Pompeo, a conservative Republican from Kansas and a member of the House intelligence committee, faced a mostly nonconfrontational confirmation hearing on Jan. 12.
Senate Republicans had hoped to vote on Pompeo’s nomination Friday, after Trump’s inauguration. But Democrats succeeded in stalling action until they could debate it on Monday. Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Patrick Leahy of Vermont objected to what they said was a “rushed confirmation” and demanded more time for Pompeo’s nomination to be “vetted, questioned and debated.”
If confirmed, Pompeo would take the helm at the nation’s top spy agency at a critical time for U.S. national security when intelligence — traditionally a nonpartisan issue — has been thrust into the political arena.
In its final days, President Barack Obama‘s administration announced intelligence findings that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election with the goal of getting Trump elected. Trump himself has denied most of the assessment, though eventually conceded Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic emails during the campaign.
One of Trump’s first stops as president was at the CIA’s headquarters in Northern Virginia on Saturday where he made a speech that focused more on falsely accusing the media of lying about how many people attended his inauguration than on the role the CIA plays protecting the U.S. Standing in front of a memorial for fallen CIA agents, Trump assured intelligence officials, “I am so behind you.” He made no mention of his repeated criticism of the intelligence agencies following the election, including his public challenges of their high-confidence assessment that Russia meddled in the White House race to help him win.
Obama’s CIA director, John Brennan, said Trump “should be ashamed of himself” for his behavior at CIA headquarters.
Wyden, one of the senators who fought to delay a vote on Pompeo, said the congressman has been inconsistent in his statements about Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election.
In written responses to questions from the Senate, on Jan. 3, Pompeo said that intelligence agency assessments should be taken seriously. After Trump conceded Russia was behind the campaign hacks, Pompeo on Jan. 12 told the Senate intelligence committee that the assessment was “solid.”
He enrolled as a teenager at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, and graduated first in his class in 1986. He served in the Army at a time when the Soviet Union was America’s No. 1 adversary.
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.