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Pompeo Confirmation Hearing. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 12, 2018 - 13:00   ET

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


[13:00:00] SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Whatever he wants.

Do you think the Iraq War was a mistake?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: Sir, I was running a machine shot in Kansas at the time, so I don't have a contemporaneous view that I expressed.

PAUL: No opinions back then? How about opinions now?

POMPEO: I -- I may well have had an opinion. I --

PAUL: Now. What is your --

POMPEO: My opinion now is, look, we clearly had -- we had bad intelligence. I've been one of the few CIA directors who's been willing to say, we get it wrong. In spite of all the enormous resources that --

PAUL: But it -- but it's not just bad intelligence that --

POMPEO: But we did -- we did have bad intelligence.

PAUL: We did geopolitically the wrong thing. We got rid of an enemy of Iran. We emboldened Iran. We made it worse. We brought chaos to the Middle East. We are still suffering the ramifications and repercussions of the Iraq War. But your president said it very clearly. He says the Iraq War was the single worst decision ever made.

So, once again, I'm concerned that you won't be supporting the president, that you will be influencing him in a way that I think his inclinations are actually better than many of his advisers. That the Iraq War was a mistake. That we need to come home from Afghanistan. He was against being involved in Syria at many times in his career. So I think he does have good instincts. And my main concern is that, will you be one who will listen to what the president actually wants, instead of being someone who advocates for us staying forever in Afghanistan, another Iraq war, bombing Syria without permission.

So these are the -- the advice you will give. And I guess that's my biggest concern with your nomination is that I don't think it reflects the millions of people who voted for President Trump, who actually voted for him because they thought it would be different, that it wouldn't be the traditional bipartisan consensus to bomb everywhere and be everywhere around the world.

So that's my main concern. And I just want to make sure that that's loud and clear to everyone, that is my concern.

Thank you.

POMPEO: Thank you, Senator Paul.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Thank you.

Senator Murphy.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, director. Good to see you.

This is an extraordinary article, I believe, from late last year in "The New Yorker" that speaks to China's rise coinciding with an American retreat from the globe. And I think we've all seen that as we've traveled the world that the presence that the United States used to have just simply isn't there and other countries are taking advantage.

This article in part describes a relatively routine meeting with the WTO in which they were negotiating trade rules for agriculture and sea food, something that the United States used to have a big role at. And it quotes someone in attendance as saying, for two days of meetings, there were no Americans, and the Chinese were going into every session and chortling about how they were now the guarantors of the trading system. The article makes the case that Trump is China's biggest strategic opportunity.

I've seen this. We've all seen this at multilateral meetings that we used to see a major U.S. administration presence. There's virtually no presence. And other countries are taking advantage of that.

What do you think about the scope of our presence at some of these rule-setting meetings and what are your plans for the future?

POMPEO: Senator, we need to be there. We need to be active. We need to be capable. We need to be value added. We need to come prepared to engage and work for America's interests in these multilateral discussions that you describe for the -- I think this was WTO that was in this article. It sounds like we share that sentiment.

I couldn't tell you why we weren't there. I don't know if it was the absence of people or the absence of focus. I view those as important places to -- to get the international rule of law that's in accord with our view and not the Chinese view. In that particular instance, I -- you have concerns and I will do my best to make sure that we're -- we're there and we're capable.

MURPHY: I appreciate that answer.

I want to get a little bit of a clarification with respect to an answer that you gave Senator Menendez at the outset coming back to this meeting with the president on March 22nd. Senator Menendez asked you whether there was a discussion about steps you could take to try to frustrate the investigation. And you said that, I don't recall what the president asked me that day. Is that your testimony, that you don't recall what he asked?

POMPEO: Yes. And I want to be -- I want --

MURPHY: (INAUDIBLE) --

POMPEO: And I wanted to express, I don't recall if he asked anything that particular day. I don't -- I know the date. I know the meeting to which you're referring. And I don't -- I don't have -- I don't recall -- I don't recall the specifics. And I have answered every question about that meeting and others.

MURPHY: I ask the question because it's -- because you answered two different ways. You said, I don't recall what he asked me that day, but then you also said, he has never asked me to do anything that I consider inappropriate. And those are not consistent.

POMPEO: Because -- those are entirely consistent, senator. If he asked me to do something inappropriate, I'd remember.

MURPHY: Let me give you another chance at a different question.

Senator Coons asked you in an earlier round whether you agreed with the president's characterization of the Mueller investigation as an attack on -- in America, an attack on all we stand for.

[13:05:04] I don't understand why your precipitation in some of the elements of that investigation would render you unable to tell us that you don't believe the investigation is an attack on America or an attack on all we stand for. I don't think it compromises any of the work that the CIA did or does in that investigation. So I think it's really -- I think it's really -- I think it would be really troubling if you couldn't say here today that you don't believe that the Mueller investigation is an attack on America. So I want to give you a second chance at that.

POMPEO: Senator, give me a third chance. I am -- these are complex, legal issues that special counsel is involved in. I've done my best as CIA director to separate each and every element of that. There's -- there's just -- it is -- it is -- it is a mine field, Senator Murphy. And I want to be -- I want to be on the far side of the line with making sure that I don't create challenges for the special counsel's office, for the two legislative committees that are engaged in this. And so I -- with all due respect, I just --

MURPHY: I think -- I think that --

POMPEO: (INAUDIBLE) things that relate to the special counsel as -- as I -- where this is about -- anyway --

MURPHY: By refusing to condemn attacks on the special counsel, I mean really over-the-line attacks that aren't shared by Republicans here in Congress, you are frustrating the work of the special counsel because you're associating yourself with some very poisonous, political attacks.

POMPEO: Senator, I have worked diligently myself, and I have put demands on the team that works for me to go out of our way to make sure we were delivering for each of those three investigations. And it is -- it is difficult. They've asked for complex information that was classified. We've shared information that goes well beyond what has previously been shared. And we've done so with the aim of insuring that the special counsel and the Senate Intelligence and House Intelligence Committee have the information they need to conduct their investigations. And you should know, we'll do that today, and tomorrow, and, if I'm confirmed, at the State Department, we'll do it there as well.

MURPHY: In the time that I have remaining, I want to come back to the authorization question in Syria. You said you believe that the president has the authority to strike Syrian forces. What is this -- what statutory authorization do you draw on to make -- to come to that conclusion?

POMPEO: Senator, I believe that the president has that authority. He certainly has it under Article II of the Constitution.

MURPHY: What's the limiting factor then with respect to Article II powers, if he can strike Syrian forces with no existing statutory authorization?

POMPEO: Senator, there are rings of law review articles written in answer to that very question. It gets -- it's a highly fact-based analysis. There are scores of attorneys strewn throughout the CIA, throughout the State Department, throughout the White House, throughout the Justice Department who would --

MURPHY: Well, just -- but give me one limiting -- give me one limiting factor.

POMPEO: Yes, senator, I would -- if you go -- if you make a commitment, right, if you make a commitment that would be traditionally viewed as a classical case for war, then the Constitution so requires. This has been a tussle between the executive and legislative branch for an awfully long time and I -- you know my views. I think it was Senator Kaine who said that I have come in from the place that you do, on the congressional side, have deep respect for what it is that you all are looking for.

MURPHY: So normally a limiting factor would be an imminent threat or an attack on the United States. And --

POMPEO: Right. There's a -- there's a very definition in the War Powers Act, right? There's -- so there's a statutory definition that's contained there as well. I can't recite it (INAUDIBLE), but there's a legal analysis as well.

MURPHY: Well, it's an attack on -- it's an attack -- the war powers refers to an attack on the United States.

POMPEO: Right (ph). MURPHY: There's been no attack on the United States from the Syria regime, correct?

POMPEO: Senator, that's correct.

MURPHY: And there's no imminent threat of attack on the United States from the Syria regime?

POMPEO: Yes, senator, I'm just trying to be very careful. Yes, I think that's -- I think that's correct.

MURPHY: All right. I'm at the end of my time, but I might want to follow up on this. I don't think we're to the bottom of this question yet.

Thank you.

POMPEO: Senator, these are -- it's just -- I'm trying to answer -- you're asking me today to conduct complex legal analysis with legal conclusions. And so I do -- I know it's important and so I'm trying to do my best. I'm, at the same time, trying to make sure that I don't have some statement I made that --

MURPHY: I understand that.

POMPEO: I parsed the language (INAUDIBLE).

MURPHY: No, I understand. But to the extent that there is not an identifiable constraint on Article II power, then we are all out of the business of declaring war.

CORKER: If I could, I'll use another 30 seconds of my time.

I think that even on this committee there's wide agreement over that. I know Senator Shaheen and myself, I saw her public statements over the last few days, both agree that the president has the ability to make certain strikes. President Obama carried on for months activities against Libya that I disagreed with on a policy basis, but he had that authority to do so. At least, he claimed he did.

[13:10:05] So, look, I think this is a subject of debate and I think it's prudent of our witness to -- to not try to analyze the very details of that. On our own committee we would debate that on both sides of the aisle at length. But I thank you for having this conversation. I look forward to the follow-up.

Senator Barrasso.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R), WYOMING: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Director Pompeo, congratulations on your nomination. Thank you for your service to the nation. Thanks for coming by and visiting with me, taking the time to discuss the critical issues of national security.

And I concur completely with you and the presidential authority -- WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're going to take another very, very -- two minute quick break. We'll be right back with our special coverage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The secretary of state nominee, Mike Pompeo, answering questions from Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming.

POMPEO: To turn off natural gas pipelines or to create risk and threats to our allies and to our friends around the world. We will -- we will have reduced the risk to the United States of America and to those countries greatly. And so I look forward to being part of the discussion about Nordstrom 2 in particular to make sure that there are alternatives there that are in the west's best interests and not in Vladimir Putin's best interests.

BARRASSO: And then turning to Iran, they continue to be a threat to the United States, to Israel, to the international community. Iran is the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism. They're financing terrorist groups around the world. And a lot of it has to do with a massive influx of cash that Iran received from the Iran nuclear deal. And they're continuing to support destabilizing activities in the region. There's incredible amounts of evidence for that. You know, I think the United States has to enforce and impose sanctions on Iran for what they're doing, with arms trafficking, with terrorism, the development of ballistic missiles.

So can you visit a bit -- a little bit about how you plan to respond to Iran's illicit activities, including what they're doing to support terrorism and arms trafficking and the missile developments?

POMPEO: Senator, the president has laid out a strategy to push back against each of those elements of threat to America that you've described. Maybe focus just on sanctions for a moment.

There's still more arrows in the quiver. There's more work to do there. As CIA director, we've been part of writing the intelligence so that we can target those sanctions in the right way. We understand who it is and who's moving weapons around the world and who's engaged in the malign activity, which we're trying to stop ultimately those designations that are placed by Treasury and State (INAUDIBLE). We just had a big role up in part of it. We've got a big team working on it. We will continue to. And if I'm confirmed, I will be part of that.

I will tell you that the other element of that is also a diplomatic task. It's important when America places sanctions, it is really powerful when we get our partners to do it as well. When we can share the burden that comes with placing sanctions -- because Americans can't trade in those places -- and when we can share that burden and truly create global prohibitions on trading with the entities we designate, we have the most likelihood of -- the greatest likelihood of achieving the outcome we're looking for.

[13:15:11] BARRASSO: And can I turn briefly to North Korea and the nuclear program there. You know, last month President Trump agreed to meet with the North

Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. You know, the United States, I believe, should be engaged in talks if they're not just for the purpose of talking. And so -- I think we should only be engaged in credible opportunities to discuss the denuclearization of North Korea. So it's also important that you guys continue to pressure this regime, imposing sanctions, conducting joint military exercises, keeping the regime fully aware of the consequences of their actions.

So can you talk about if you believe there is a scenario in which North Korea would actually remove their nuclear weapons program and, you know, how -- how maximum pressure might work there?

POMPEO: Senator, there has -- senator, the historic analysis there is not optimistic. That is, it has -- it is a -- almost a talisman that there is not enough cohesion, there is not enough capacity for Kim Jong-un to make the decision to give up his nuclear weapons arsenal. I hope that that talisman is wrong. I -- and that's the effort that we have been engaged in.

Your point about the sanctions I think is relevant. I've had a chance to talk to a whole handful of the people who were involved in the agreed framework, the leap day deal, the six-party talks. In each case, America and the world released their sanctions too quickly. That is, we didn't have the verifiable, irreversible deal that we hoped that we had had. And in each case the North Koreans walked away from that deal. It is the intention of the president and the administration to not do that this time, to make sure that before it's the case, as we did with the JCPOA, before we provide rewards, we get the outcome permanently, irreversibly that is that we hope to achieve. It is a tall order, but I am hopeful that President Trump can achieve that through sound diplomacy, both personally and through the offices of the United States State Department.

BARRASSO: And the final question with regard to human rights, the rule of law. I appreciate your opening statement and the comments about your commitment to human rights around the world and -- because if we don't, who will. You know, secretary of state, we have just -- again, your commitment to promoting and protecting these important principles across the globe I think are key, so I appreciate your comments.

POMPEO: Thank you, Senator Barrasso.

BARRASSO: Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CORKER: Thank you, sir.

Senator Merkley.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Thank you very much.

Earlier it was noted that an oath of office involved -- and as you noted, you've taken it several times -- to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Recently President Trump has talked about a domestic enemy, saying that the execution of a search warrant by the U.S. law enforcement authorities on Michael Cohen's office constitutes an attack. And I quote, an attack on our country in a true sense.

Do you agree with the president's evaluation that that is an attack on our country?

POMPEO: Senator, I have -- I have always believed that the rule of law matters. I continue to believe that. Multiple times individuals have asked me to comment on statements that others have made, friends of mine have made, adversaries of mine have made, those who are coming after me. I'm -- today what I want to talk about is the things that I believe. I believe deeply in the rule of law and will continue to do so. My role as CIA director --

MERKLEY: And do you think that the rule of law does enable an in -- appropriate warrants to be executed in parallel fashion to this?

POMPEO: Oh, yes, sir. Absolutely.

MERKLEY: Thank you.

Turning to North Korea.

John Bolton said it's perfectly legitimate for the U.S. to respond to the current necessity posed by North Korea's nuclear weapons by striking first. Secretary of Defense Mattis had a different view, saying that war with North Korea would be catastrophic.

Do you lean more toward John Bolton's view or Secretary of Defense Mattis' view?

POMPEO: Can I lean more closely to the president's view, which is to continue to pressure campaign, to build a coalition, a diplomatic coalition, around the world to put pressure on Kim Jong-un such that we can achieve the United States' goals without ever having to put one of our young men or women in harm's way.

MERKLEY: Does the president have the constitutional authority to conduct a first strike on North Korea without authorization from Congress?

POMPEO: Senator, again, I'm not going to comment on hypothetical situations or complex legal matters.

MERKLEY: Well, you've done so before back awhile when the question was in regard to committing resources in Libya. You put out a statement regarding a letter to Barack Obama informing him that the administration would be in violation of the War Powers Resolution unless either authorization from Congress is obtained or the military withdraws operations from Libya by Sunday, June 19th. And then you commented and you said specifically, the country -- that country, Libya -- does not pose a threat to the United States, nor do we have vital interests there.

[13:20:21] Did you believe, as you said then, that there is a constitutional limitation on the ability of the president to conduct war without an authorization from Congress?

POMPEO: Yes.

MERKLEY: Thank you.

In that context, not so long ago, there was a lot of discussion that in regard to Syria, if President Obama put troops on the ground in Syria without congressional authorization, it would constitute a foundation for impeachment. We had members of the Senate, including members of our Armed Service Committee, members of the House, and I'd just quote one of them, Representative Walter Jones said, no president, Democratic or Republican, should have the authority to bypass the Constitution or the will of the American people. And he said, if one of our troops goes to Syria and is killed, I will introduce articles of impeachment.

So, at the time of that discussion, did you share the view that for President Obama to put troops on the ground in Syria would be a violation of the Constitution?

POMPEO: Senator, I don't recall if I did or if I made a statement with respect to that at that time. I simply don't recall.

MERKLEY: But just to clarify, in the case of Libya, you did see that there was a line being crossed?

POMPEO: Oh, yes. Yes, senator, I believed that.

MERKLEY: OK.

The argument at that point was that under our NATO mutual defense and a NATO action, but you still felt that didn't give the foundation for action in Libya?

POMPEO: Yes, senator, I believe what I -- I think you said it, described as a letter, not a statement. I believe -- I believe what I said in that statement.

MERKLEY: It is an issue of great concern here on the boundaries, and certainly I think some of your earlier caution about presidents exceeding their constitutional authority is caution that we'd like to hear in your role as secretary of state. It's often the case when people make the journey down Pennsylvania Avenue, the war powers in the Constitution granted to Congress seem to be forgotten.

Will you -- will you not forget those constitutional delineation of responsibilities?

POMPEO: Senator, I promise you that. I will -- I will take -- I will take equal consideration, in the same way I did that day in 2011, as I have done as the CIA director, and as -- if I'm confirmed as secretary of state, I will continue to do that.

MERKLEY: John Bolton noted that it was legitimate for the U.S. to respond to the current necessity posed by North Korea's nuclear program by striking first. Do you agree with that? POMPEO: Senator, could you -- I'm sorry, might you repeat it?

MERKLEY: John Bolton argued that it's legitimate for the U.S. to respond to North Korea's nuclear weapons program by striking first. Do you agree with that?

POMPEO: Sir, again, I'm -- I don't want to wade into a hypothetical about what -- under what conditions it might be appropriate or not appropriate. We're a long ways from that. We're working diplomatically to get the right outcome in North Korea.

MERKLEY: John Bolton argued that Cuba was developing biological weapons and it was appropriate for the United States to go to war against Cuba. Did you agree with him on that?

POMPEO: Senator, I'm not going to -- his words speak for himself. But --

MERKLEY: No, it speaks for him but -- but he's not here. You're here.

POMPEO: Tell -- tell me what the question is. Tell me -- I understand --

MERKLEY: I'm interested in your opinion.

POMPEO: I'm deeply aware of that. Wait, I'm sorry, senator, might you ask -- did I -- there's a factual predicate there about Cuban and weapons?

MERKLEY: Did you agree with Bolton's viewpoint that we should go to war with Cuba?

POMPEO: No. No, senator.

MERKLEY: How about --

POMPEO: I haven't -- I haven't at any time say that I believe we should go to war with Cuba.

MERKLEY: How about in regard to his belief that Hussain had hidden weapons of mass destruction and we should go to war with Iraq?

POMPEO: Senator, I think I may not have expounded sufficiently. I've read the history. The intelligence community had that assessment and was incorrect about its assessment at that time.

MERKLEY: I'll just note the reason I'm asking you these questions is there's a lot of concern in America and a lot of people are paying attention to this hearing and they're asking the fundamental question, are we assembling a war cabinet of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo that are going to result in devastating consequences, bypassing Congress' authority in regards to the use of military force and perhaps engaging in another poorly thought through mistake like our war on Iraq that has resulted in a huge loss of American lives, a huge loss of American resources, enormous instability, including Iran developing an enormous track of influence from Iran, through Iraq, through Syria, to Lebanon and Yemen. And people want to know whether or not your views are close enough to Bolton's in his advocacy of force in virtually every situation that we are going to have a very dangerous arrangement on the key two advisers to the president of the United States.

[13:25:28] If the chair will indulge, could you just give (ph) give a sense of that?

CORKER: I really won't. I really won't. We're getting ready to start a second round.

MERKLEY: Well, Mr. Chairman, many people have gone significantly over their time and I'm still just within one minute.

CORKER: Well, since you're begging, go ahead.

MERKLEY: Thank you. I'm not begging, stating fairness.

POMPEO: Senator, I'm sorry, might I get you to reframe the question or ask the question one more time? I apologize.

MERKLEY: Yes. Many people in America are concerned --

CORKER: But he -- you heard the question. Just answer it. Are you forming a war cabinet?

POMPEO: Yes, senator, I've been part of this cabinet. I've watched it thoughtfully deliberated about a lot of these things. And I can tell you, every day, at the forefront of our mind is, how can we find solutions that avoid us -- that achieve the American objective but avoid us having to put a single American into harm's way. You have my commitment that as the secretary of state or if I continue as the CIA director, that I will continue to hold that in the forefront of my mind.

MERKLEY: Thank you.

CORKER: Thank you.

Thank you very much.

Senator Portman.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Director Pompeo, thank you for your willingness to step up and serve again. I imagine it's hard to leave the CIA after only 15 months given your tenure there which was successful and where you've developed a lot of close relationships.

But you're taking on a new task, and it's a different task. You know, the CIA is primarily a --

BLITZER: All right, we've got to take another two minute break. We'll resume our coverage right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Senator Rob Portman of Ohio questioning the secretary of state nominee, Mike Pompeo.

PORTMAN: And that we needed a fresh start there. I enjoyed working with Secretary Tillerson. I think his lack of appointees being confirmed by this body was one of the problems. But for whatever the reasons, there's a moral problem. And I'm not going to ask you to repeat what you said to me in private, but I was encouraged because you talked about -- you didn't talk about that drill sergeant which you have to listen -- I heard that today, because I've been -- I've been listening as well today and -- but you did, in our meeting, talk about the respect you have for the foreign service and your belief that you can, not just improve that morale, but keep people motivated, feeling like their important and can make a difference.

There's a lot of talk about Libya today and your views then and there's talk about Syria today and what's going on in terms of the decision making. Let me broaden this a little bit and ask about something that our committee is struggling with right now, which is this notion that we have an AUMF, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, that dates back to 2001 and 2002. And it has not been updated.

[13:30:05] How do you feel about that? Do you think we should update the AUMF?

POMPEO: I do, senator.

And, if I may elaborate. I actually was part of a team on the House side some years ago