President-elect Donald Trump’s for CIA director presented a score of challenges facing the United States on Thursday, considering Russia a threat, Iran “disruptive” and shedding light on China that he said is creating “real tensions.”
Going against Trump’s earlier statements on seeking closer ties with Russia, Mike Pompeo said that Russia is “asserting itself aggressively” by invading and occupying Ukraine, threatening Europe, and “doing nearly nothing” to destroy international terror group ISIS.
For weeks, Trump questioned the intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia used hacking and other tactics to try to tilt the 2016 presidential election in his favor. The president-elect on Wednesday accused Russia for the hacking but that other countries were hacking the United States as well.
Pompeo, a Republican member of the House of Representatives and a former U.S. Army officer, was speaking during his confirmation hearing in the U.S. Senate, at a time when Trump, a Republican who takes office on Jan. 20, has openly feuded with U.S. intelligence agencies.
Asked about the hacking, Pompeo said he was very clear about what he called an “aggressive action” ordered by the Russian leadership, and accepted the U.S. intelligence report on the hacking as sound.
Trump this week also furiously denounced intelligence officials for what he said were leaks to the media by intelligence agencies of a dossier that makes unverified, salacious allegations about his contacts in Russia.
By contrast, Pompeo voiced strong support for the agency he has been nominated to lead, saying he has seen staff from the Central Intelligence Agency “walk through fire.”
Pompeo signaled he would stand firm if necessary against Trump on the issue of enhanced interrogation techniques for terrorism suspects. Such techniques are widely regarded as torture and their use has been banned by Congress. Trump has said he would bring back tactics such as waterboarding, which simulates drowning.
Asked about this, Pompeo said that he would “absolutely not” restart enhanced interrogation techniques by the CIA if asked by the president-elect. He noted it would take a change in the law for the CIA to use interrogation techniques that go beyond those permitted by the Army, adding he could not imagine that Trump would order the CIA to use illegal methods.