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INSIDE POLITICS

Pompeo Confirmation Hearings. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 12, 2017 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00] SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: And so thanks for stepping up and do it.

Let me ask about the role of the CIA and its face and the direction that it looks. Can you walk me through your philosophical perspective of it being a foreign face and what is the role in the United States for the CIA?

REP. MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: Well, senator, first of all, thanks for the kind words. I enjoyed working alongside you on foreign policy matters as well. And right back at you (INAUDIBLE).

LANKFORD: Yes.

POMPEO: Look, the Central Intelligence Agency has a mission, it's to steal secrets and it's to be an espionage agency, getting ahold of information that bad actors around the world don't want us to know. These are foreign entities, foreign actors, foreign countries, whether they're - whether it's Iran or Russia or whoever that actor may be, the intelligence agency's fundamental role is to make sure that we deliver that information to policymakers so that you all can make informed judgments about how to respond and to keep America safe. That's its function.

It has lots of pieces to it. There are people pieces. We have to make sure we have the finest talent from all across America so that it can deliver that product. We need to make sure we have policies and processes in place so that we can deliver that. We need to make sure when asked to perform covert action that we do so in a professional way consistent with the law and vigorously execute the president's directives there. This is a world class foreign intelligence service that, if confirmed, I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead.

LANKFORD: Let me ask about gathering intelligence and getting it in a timely basis to the president and other decisionmakers and policymakers. It has been one of the ongoing disputes is the speed of the turnaround. How fresh is that information? And at times for agencies to think and rethink and edit and re-edit information so that by the time you get it, it's so sterile and so old that it's not as useful anymore. Talk me through just methods and thoughts about trying to get fresh information to policymakers and the president.

POMPEO: Senator, it's incredible, important that the information is timely. I understand sometimes there is a trade-off between speed and depth and accuracy, right, and completeness. But that just means we have to be world class. Businesses do this every day. I tried to do it in the times that I ran my two small companies. We have to make sure that the CIA is world class with respect to developing this information in a timely, speedy fashion, getting it to policymakers in a way that is both reliable and timely. We've all seen this. It's a complex world with difficult foreign intelligence collections and pockets and we have to make insure that the agency is world class with respect to delivering that to you.

LANKFORD: So let me ask a strange question for you. You're going to often be in meetings with Dan Coats and yourself and the president. What's the difference in the information that you're bringing to the president and how can you and the director of national intelligence cooperate together and bringing information and what's the differences in the roles there as the two of you sit and bring information to the president?

POMPEO: Look, the DNI, and if Senator Coats, if confirmed in his role, will have the important function of being the president's senior intelligence policy adviser. I have the glory, if confirmed, to lead the world's premier intelligence collection organization. Certainly with respect to human intelligence, we have a unique capacity that is unrivaled in the world and I hope to be part of making it even better.

And so we'll bring a set of different perspectives. He will have spent more time evaluating intelligence that comes from different parts of the intelligence community than will. I will have been focused on the work that our agency does. And I have great confidence that he and I will work together to deliver a comprehensive view of America's intelligence posture and the information that has been derived from that.

LANKFORD: OK. Thank you.

POMPEO: Thank you, sir.

LANKFORD: Very much, Mike, for your service and, Susan, for yours as well.

POMPEO: Thank you, sir.

LANKFORD: So, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Manchin.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Congressman - thank you, Mr. Chairman. Congressman, thank you for your service and -

POMPEO: Thank you, Senator Manchin.

MANCHIN: And also congratulations on your nomination and to your family. I'm sure they're extremely proud of you, and they should be.

With that being said, you know, we live in a troubled world today, as we all know, and I think I just want to hear your thoughts on your experiences within the military and also your experiences as a congress person and the positions you've had in Congress on what you consider the greatest threat the United States of America faces today and what person brings the greatest threat to our country that wants to do us harm.

POMPEO: So it's always hard to rack and stack, especially in times of turmoil around the world that we find today, but let me - let me give it a throw. So I begin with the threat from terrorism as it extends into the homeland. If you ask, what was the most immediate threat? I think it's certainly that. That is, it presents the most immediate threat to the personal risk to a person living in south central Kansas. And so we need to be -

MANCHIN: A country associated with that?

POMPEO: Oh, boy, there are too many to name, but let's - let's start with the activity that's taking place today in Syria and Iraq and the threat that terrorists have posed both - both Sunni and Shia terrorists have posed to the United States. So ISIS and al Qaeda would be the primary organizations today, but it extends far beyond that.

[12:05:14] We've also seen challenges from radical Islamic terrorism in southeast Asia.

MANCHIN: You believe terrorism is the highest threat that we face?

POMPEO: I -

MANCHIN: I mean and you're right. I'm just saying in the position you have right now, the (INAUDIBLE) classified position you have right now, in your experience.

POMPEO: In the near term threat to life and limb of Americans, yes. I'd put North Korea, China and Russia right up there alongside them. Add -

MANCHIN: Which one has the weapons to do us harm?

POMPEO: Oh, goodness. Oh, the nuclear powers are the ones that have the biggest threat to do catastrophic harm to the United States.

MANCHIN: And which person in the world do you - in your estimation has the desire to do us the most harm?

POMPEO: Boy, to ask me for a singular individual is really a tough question, Senator Manchin. The list is long.

MANCHIN: There's a lot of them?

POMPEO: Yes, sir.

MANCHIN: OK. West Virginians are asking me continually, can we trust the intel community? And they go back - they keep referring back because though the political (INAUDIBLE) listen to a lot of the political campaign rhetoric. You know, we had weapons of mass destruction. We declared war in Iraq and we found out that maybe we could have taken a difference course or altered that course. So they have concerns about that. And I would just like to ask, do you have confidence in the intel community, the CIA in particular, where you're going into?

POMPEO: I do. I do. Look, I'd never stand here today to tell you that the agency has had perfection throughout history, nor that it will have perfection if I'm confirmed on my watch. But I have great confidence in the men and women that work out there. They are - you know them, right? They are patriots, they're warriors, they're real people who have dedicated their life to keeping America safe and I have the utmost confidence that if I'm confirmed, I will get an opportunity to lead a set of great Americans that aren't politicized.

MANCHIN: Well, right now - right now I think you'd have to agree that the morale is fairly low, and they're being hit by many different angles and different sides through the political process that we go through, which can be very damaging, if you will. What's your first point of order and what's your first steps that you intend to take if confirmed to lift that morale up and let them know that we're all on the same side?

POMPEO: Senator, I might disrespectivly (ph) dissent from the predicate of your question a bit. I've had a chance, over the last few weeks, to spend a little bit of time with a handful of people out there. I haven't seen the low morale that you described.

MANCHIN: OK.

POMPEO: Look, they - they - they're human beings. They're Americans, too. They watch the political process. But what I have seen from the spirited warriors out at the Central Intelligence Agency is a desire to sort of get out of the middle of this fight and continue to perform their function, right? To do their work in a way that they know how to do. And they are - I don't mean to denigrate the leadership at the Central Intelligence Agency at all today. Director Brennan has performed amazing service to America for an awfully long time. But many of them have served under multiple presidents as well and they know that times change, leaders change, and I think they're very much looking forward to the new administration, if confirmed, me as the director of the CIA, to help them continue to perform their function in a way that they can continue to serve America.

MANCHIN: Well, I definitely wish you well on that and the optimistic out view you have. And my final question would be, your thoughts on sanctions? What would be your thoughts on sanctions because we're looking at sanctions - are we looking at it state by state, country by country, or should we have a blanket basically piece of legislation here that says that any country that has been state sponsored cyberattacks on the United states of America, should we not have basically sanctions in place to address all of them the same, or should it be country by country deciding on what sanctions that we think will be more detrimental? But I'm just saying that if it's been - the intel community confirms that it's state-sponsored sanctions, shouldn't we know exactly what they're going to be facing if we confirm that?

POMPEO: Well, senator, you've actually given my first opportunity to step out of the political world today and tell you, look, that decision, that policy, I think, will be left to others. I do have a record with support to sanctions.

MANCHIN: Right.

POMPEO: I have voted for legislation authorizing sanctions on a number of countries during my time as a member of the United States House of Representatives.

MANCHIN: Were they evaluated country by country or do you -

POMPEO: My recollection is, senator, they were nation by nation sanctions that we were evaluating.

MANCHIN: So basically whatever relationship we have with that nation, it could be a little bit easier on one, tougher on the other. Don't you think us, as policymakers, should have sanctions that say, listen, if you do this to us and it's - and it's confirmed, and it's state sponsored by you, whether it be financially, whether it be economically, whatever it might be, these sanctions will go into effect immediately?

POMPEO: Senator, I'm going to defer on the policy question today. I'll make sure you have all the information you need to form good judgments about that.

MANCHIN: Thank you very much and congratulations.

POMPEO: Thank you. Thank you, senator Manchin. Thank you, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Cotton.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: Mike, welcome before the committee and congratulations on your nomination to be the director of central intelligence. Susan and Nick, it's good to see you again. I know that you're very proud of Mike, as we all are.

[12:10:12] This has been a very thorough hearing. We've spent Lord knows how many hours at the agency and traveling around the world. So I think I have a pretty good sense of your views on these questions. Therefore, I'll reserve the rest of my questions in a closed hearing where we can have a little more frank discussion.

Since Senator McCain scurrilously attacked your education, I will stand up for our Army background. I will say, I'm troubled somewhat by the material I found in your biography that you came in first in your class at West Point at therefore had your choice of branches and chose armor instead of infantry. I will consider this a youthful indiscretion that does not reflect on your current service and I will see you this afternoon.

POMPEO: Thank you, Senator Cotton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am glad to see, Mike, that you haven't forgotten where the razor is, like some Army veterans.

COTTON: I'm preparing to deploy covertly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Harris.

SEN. KAMAIA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Representative Pompeo, I was glad to meet with you earlier this week and congratulations on your nomination.

For clarification, have you read in its entirety the IC report assessing Russian activities and intentions in recent U.S. elections?

POMPEO: I have.

HARRIS: And do you fully accept its findings, yes or no?

POMPEO: I've seen nothing to cast any doubt on the findings in the report.

HARRIS: OK.

And your voting record and stated position on gay marriage and the importance of having a, quote/unquote "traditional family structure" for raising children is pretty clear. I disagree with your position, but, of course, you're entitled to your opinion. I don't want to - that, however, to impact your opinion on that matter. The recruitment or retention of patriotic LGBT women and men in the CIA, some of whom have, of course, taken great risks to their lives for our country. Can you commit to me that your personal views on this issue will remain your personal views and will not impact internal policies that you put in place at the CIA?

POMPEO: Senator Harris, you have my full commitment to that. I would only add that in my life as a private businessman, this same set of issues was out there. I had my views at that time as well. And I treated every - each and every member of the workforce that I was responsible for at those times with the dignity and respect and demanded of them the same things that I demanded of every other person that was working as part of my team.

HARRIS: And do I have your assurance that this equal treatment will include policies related to child care services, family benefits and accompanying posts for dependents?

POMPEO: Without knowing the full set of policies and benefits at the Central Intelligence Agency, I haven't had the chance to find - find that out just yet, you have my assurance that every employee will be treated in a way that is appropriate and equal.

HARRIS: And that you will not put in place any policies that would discriminate against any members because of their sexual orientation?

POMPEO: Ma'am, I can't imagine putting in place any policy that was discriminatory with respect to any employee.

HARRIS: Thank you.

And I'm also concerned about rhetoric related to Muslims from high- profile members of the incoming administration, in particular Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, with whom I imagine you'll be working closely. I don't want that to impact recruitment or retention of the patriotic and critically important Muslim men and women of the CIA, some, of course, who have taken great risks to serve our country. Can you commit to me that you will be a tireless advocate for all members of the CIA, all of the workforce?

POMPEO: Yes, ma'am.

HARRIS: CIA Director Brennan, who spent a 25-year career at the CIA as an analyst, a senior manager and station chief in the field has said that when, quote, "CIA analysts look for deeper causes of rising instability in the world, one of the causes those CIA analysts see as the - is the impact of climate change." Do you have any reason to doubt the assessment of these CIA analysts?

POMPEO: Senator Harris, I haven't had a chance to read those materials with respect to climate change. I do know the agency's role there. Its role is to collect foreign intelligence, to understand threats to the world. That would certainly include threats from poor governance, regional instability, threats from all sources and deliver that information to policymakers. And to the extent that changes in climatic activity are part of that foreign intelligence collection task, we will deliver that information to you all and to the president.

HARRIS: In the past you have questioned the scientific consensus on climate change. Nevertheless, according to NASA, multiple studies published in peer reviewed scientific journals showed that 97 percent or more of actively published climate scientists agree that climate warning trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. Do you have any reason to doubt NASA's findings?

[12:15:18] POMPEO: Senator, I've actually spoken to this in my political life some. My commentary, most all has been directed to ensuring that the policies that America put in place actually achieve the objective of ensuring that we didn't have catastrophic harm that resulted from changing climate. I continue to hold that view.

I, frankly, as the director of CIA, would prefer today not to get into the details of climate debate and science. It just - it seems - my role is going to be so different and unique from that. It is going to be to work alongside warriors, keeping Americans safe and so I stand by the things that I've said previously with respect to that issue.

HARRIS: So I'm not clear, do you believe that NASA'S findings are debatable?

POMPEO: Senator, I have to tell you, I haven't spent enough time to tell you that I've looked at NASA's findings in particular. I just - I can't give you any judgment about that today.

HARRIS: Can you guarantee me that you will and we'll have a follow-up conversation on this?

POMPEO: I'm happy to continue to talk about it, yes, ma'am, of course. HARRIS: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Cornyn.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Congratulations, Congressman Pompeo, on your - on your nomination and your family.

POMPEO: Thank you, senator.

CORNYN: I know they're very proud of you. And I have every confidence that you will do an outstanding job as the next director of the CIA.

I want to ask you about the comments that were made by the FBI director back in May 2016 when he identified what he call the Ferguson effect on law enforcement and hang in there with me and let me - let me make the application to this - to this context. Basically the argument was that law enforcement was being self-restrained in terms of its policing activities, thus exposing law enforcement to assaults and many of which were deadly assaults. And the public safety was not being enhanced because they were not using the full array of their authorities for fear of what might happen in terms of public opinion or political retribution.

I have read your predecessor's, General Michael Hayden's book "Playing to the Edge," and it strikes me that he states the proposition well in terms of my view about what our intelligence authorities ought to do in collecting intelligence and protecting the safety and security of the United States. I don't want our intelligence officers and authorities to restrain their activities for fear of political retribution or for fear of - that they will be criticized for using the lawful authorities granted by the United States government to the edge. Not going over the edge, but I want to make sure that they take full - they take full use of those lawful authorities.

I know that one of the conundrums that we have in a democracy is when we start talking about what those authorities are and what they should be. There's a natural reticence to do so because, of course, in Russia and China and North Korea and Iran, they don't have those problems. And dictatorships and autocracies, they just do what they want to do without regard to any oversight, any laws, any constitution that necessarily and importantly limits what we can do in a democracy. But I think there is a danger when we start talking about the role of our intelligence agencies that either wittingly or unwittingly sometimes misinformation or disinformation about the nature of the activity and nature of the authorities enters into the debate in a way that eventually damages or limits our ability to play to the edge of our lawful authorities and the interest of our security and safety.

I just want to get an idea from you about what you think the director's role is in terms of engaging in the debate when it comes to what authorities that - that the - either the - your agency or the FBI or other members of the intelligence community need. There was a question about meta data which, of course, meta data is not content. It's - the United States Supreme Court has said there's no reasonable expectation of privacy so the Fourth Amendment isn't implicated. This is information that's routinely collected by other - by law enforcement agencies. But my concern is, and maybe I'm not being as direct and clear as I should, I just want to know what you think your role will be in terms of standing up and defending the lawful authorities of the intelligence community in order to play to the edge of that legal authority in the interest of the safety and security of the American people.

[12:20:24] POMPEO: Well, senator, thank you for that question. It's a great and incredibly important question.

I share your concerns that we run the risk of not using the authorities in a way that is important to keeping America safe if folks are afraid that there will be political retribution. One of my tasks in that vein will be to make insure that we're doing it right, that we are doing it in a legal and constitutional way. And then when we are, to defend the people who were doing that vigorously with all my might and to have their backs at every single moment. You have my word that I will do that.

There's a second piece to this as well, I think, that's important, and you - and you hit upon it, which is, I think we have an obligation as leaders to share with the American people all that we can about what's going on and what's not going on and to do so in a truthful and complete manner. It's part of why I think the oversight function is so important to the extent we're surprising people, whether we're surprising members of Congress or we're surprising the public, we run the risk of losing those very important authorities. And so I think each of us has a responsibility and, if confirmed as the director of the CIA, I will see it as my responsibility to do everything I can to make sure that we're talking about the critical nature of these authorities and how they keep Americans safe and the goals that they have accomplished in this good work in a way that permits the intelligence community to lawfully and constitutionally do all of its responsibilities.

CORNYN: Mr. Chairman, can I follow up just briefly with one last question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, you can.

CORNYN: And, of course, none of those authorities are going to be decided in all likelihood by the Supreme Court of the United States. In other words, the Office of Legal Counsel, the appropriate authorities at the Department of Justice are going to give guidance to the CIA and our intelligence community on what those - where that line is. So you can, consistent with your commitment, make sure that you apply the law that Congress has passed and is signed by the president.

But, ultimately, no one's ever going to give you 100 percent assurance that you're playing consistent with those laws as interpreted by the Department of Justice and the Office of Legal Counsel, won't be criticized in a political format later on in such a way as to cause retaliation perhaps or some concern that intelligence officers are going to jeopardize their career and their families' livelihood by playing consistent with the best and highest legal guidance that they're given. How do you view that role and maybe that's just inherent in the nature of our system, but it always strikes me as a tremendous disservice to our men and women in the intelligence field for politics to intervene and come back and undermine the lawful authorities and direction that our intelligence community has given when they're conducting their activities.

POMPEO: Senator, it's a real risk. It's an important part of my role to make sure that we have clarity. That those lines that you talk about are clear and bright and so that this risk you refer to - I've heard others talk about it as second-guessing, is minimized, happens as rarely as possible and that there aren't surprises to people as they go through. That's incredibly important and the director of the CIA has an important role there, both making sure that we're behaving lawfully and, when we do, defending the men and women who we ask to do really hard thing inside of those laws.

CORNYN: Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The chair will recognize Senator Warner for a brief statement and then Senator Wyden for one question.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I just - understand what my friend, the senator from Texas, has been saying, but I - I want to - ten of the comments I just wanted to respond, put on the record. One of the things that's impressed me with you, congressman, in our meetings is your thoughtfulness and I think you're student of history as well. And we've talked about that. And I think part of the responsibility of the agency that you may head is unique in that it is tasked with taking on covert activities and relies in many ways upon the oversight of this committee and, frankly, the trust of the American public to not go over the edge. And I think there have been times, and we can debate those times, where clearly in the history of the agency there have been examples where, whether it was through political pressure or otherwise, the agency went over the edge and, unfortunately, that - in the end, did not make America safer.

[12:25:14] I'd also say that in many of these areas, whether it's through changes of technology, and I know there's a robust debate around encryption and privacy in the digital age, that edge is not defined yet, both in a legal standpoint and in many times Congress has not done its job in terms of giving those policy guidance. So I want you and hope that you will carry out your duties and keep America safe. But I think we get into treacherous area when we're trying to push over an edge where those edges are not defined or Congress has not done its job.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Mr. Chairman, thank you.

Congressman, during the campaign, the president-elect essentially laid out something that looks to me like outsourcing surveillance. He says about Russian hacking, I'd love to have that power. He encouraged the Russians to hack Secretary Clinton's e-mails and suggested they be provided to the press. But we're now in a difference period. He's the president-elect. And it's one thing to talk, as we did earlier, with respect to your idea for collecting meta data in the future, all meta data, in your words. But I want to ask you about outsourced surveillance. If a foreign government, an organization, a company or an individual provided the agency with the communications of Americans on whom there were no warrants, what would your response be?

POMPEO: Senator, that's a complex question that you've asked. I understand that there are policies in place, I believe, at the agency, it may even be at the Department of Justice, with respect to this very issue. If I can step back and tell you that, look, it is not lawful to outsource that which we cannot do under - that the agency cannot do under its laws, that is - (INAUDIBLE) can't be too clever by half -

WYDEN: But that's - that's not the question. You can't request the information from a foreign government. We understand that. But the question is, what happens if it's provided to you, especially since it's being encouraged?

POMPEO: Senator, my understanding is that the same set of rules that surround the information, if it were collected by the U.S. government, apply to information that becomes available as a result of collection from non-U.S. sources as well.

WYDEN: Mr. Chairman, your courtesy has been appreciated. I would only ask, in writing, I'd like your response on that. Obviously, part of this involves minimization. There are other issues, 12-333. I'd like that in writing. And I'd also like in writing, before we vote, what limits you would have on your meta data proposal particularly since you're advocating that it applied to personal lifestyle information (INAUDIBLE).

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was the hope of the chair that we would allow the congressman an hour in between this and the closed session. We are down to 30 minutes. I'm going to recognize Senator Harris for a very brief question, if I may, and then I would ask if there are any additional follow-ups they be moved to the closed session.

HARRIS: Sure.

Mr. Pompeo, on the issue of climate change, I understand you're not a scientist. What I'd like to know and what I want to hear from you is, I want a CIA director who is willing to accept the overwhelming weight of evidence when presented, even if it turns out to be politically inconvenient or require you to change a previously held position. And so I - what I want to hear from you is a guarantee that when presented with that evidence, you are willing to then take a position that defers to the weight of that evidence, even if it requires you to change a previously held position that may have been politically helpful to you or a position that you have taken during your tenure in elected office.

POMPEO: Senator, you have my commitment to that. I am an engineer by training. Facts and data matter. And you have my assurance that if I'm confirmed in my role as the CIA director, I will - I will look at the evidence and give a straight-up answer to you and to all the policymakers to whom I have a responsibility.

HARRIS: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman Pompeo, this brings to a close the open session of this hearing. Let me add to Senator Cornyn and Senator Warner spoke on it, and that is that it's important that we realize that every president has the authority to provide direction or directives and that has certainly been the case for every president that I've been involved with in the intelligence community. And that directive expands or contracts in some cases the ability of the agency. And all members of this committee should realize that.

[12:30:01] I want to apologize for not giving you the hour and I apologize for the power interruption. But I want to thank you for your service to Kansas. I want to thank you for your service to the Congress.