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Pompeo Confirmation Hearing; Pompeo Confirms He Answered Mueller Questions; Trump Speaks in Rose Garden on Tax Cuts, Jobs. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 12, 2018 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] SEN. ROB PORTMAN, (R), OHIO: -- committee is struggling with now, which is this notion that we have the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that dates back to 2001 and 2002. It has not been updated. How do you feel about that? Do you think we should update the AUMF?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: I do, Senator. If I may elaborate, I actually was part of a team on the House side some years ago that worked with that on the White House. We weren't ultimately able to be successful. I do believe that it is important that we achieve that. That we have a new set of leaders in the United States Congress who also provide that authorization.

I think the one that we have works. I think it provides the authorities that the president needs today but I would welcome working along you to achieve, I think you used the term refreshed AUMF.

PORTMAN: Well, I think it's very important. You know, honestly, I don't think it's not inappropriate to say that some of the administration have not been as forthcoming to try to get to a decision here because a number of us believe that it ought to be flexible as to reach and as to groups. We do believe the president has inherent authorities within the Constitution as commander in chief that need to be respected.

But that it's just not tenable to say we're relying on a AUMF that goes back to 2001. That was 17 years ago. So we would like to work with you on that. In our meeting we talked about how Russia and other countries, China included in pursuing extensive disinformation and propaganda campaigns.

And I think we're missing out on that both on the diplomatic front with the State Department on the military front. People call the new hybrid threat is Connecticut's military but it's also disinformation and other countries have figured that out and most of them like Iran and Russia and China and others are using North Korea, using disinformation in a very sophisticated way.

It wasn't just about our election which I believe the Russians did meddle in our election and I think it's well beyond that and, by the way, it's happened before and it's going to happen after unless we do something about it. These operations use a range of tools, cyber attacks, hacking, troll farms. Go on social media, they fund useful think tanks, political organizations. Senator Murphy and I have done a lot of work on this and we have legislation as you know to set up this global engagement center to really give it the personnel and the funding it needs to be able to pushback.

I'd lie to know your views on that and specifically do you agree with me on the severity of the threat that's posed by foreign government propaganda, disinformation to U.S. interests and to our allies?

POMPEO: Yes I do. Senator, I think it's a real threat, one that has been underappreciated for years now. It has become cheaper, faster, less attributable so it's power has increased. The capacity for Mylan (ph) actors to use these information tools in ways that they just didn't have available to them 20 or 40 years ago.

It also makes stopping it more difficult and require a more comprehensive effort. We've had a small role at the Central Intelligence Agency pushing back against it. And, I know that there's been lots of talk about the Global Engagement Center in the event that I'm confirmed I promise you I will -- I will put excellent foreign service officer, excellent civil-service officers on the task of developing out that capability use -- and using it in a robust way.

PORTMAN: I'm encouraged to hear that and as you know, we've made some progress recently getting some funds there starting it up. Will you commit to helping implement this in an aggressive way, including ensuring we have the right staff there to be able to pursue this critical mission?

POMPEO: I will, Senator Portman.

PORTMAN: I'm just back from Ukraine and I see I just have a minute and a half left, based on what everybody took so I'll take it. I just back from Ukraine and as you and I talked about Ukraine unfortunately is ground zero for what's going on with regard to disinformation.

But it's beyond that. I was out of the contact line and saw the military activities as well. Do you support the continuation of providing defensive lethal weapons to the Ukrainians so they can defend themselves?

POMPEO: Senator, I do.

PORTMAN: Do you pledge that the United States while your secretary of state would never recognize the annexation of Crimea?

POMPEO: Yes, Senator, I will fight to make sure that that does not happen. Obviously it would president's decision but yes I think it would be completely inappropriate to do that.

PORTMAN: And, do you believe sanctions on Russia imposed because of its aggression in Ukraine should reamin until Russia implements the terms of the cease-fire agreement? Halt it's aggression.

POMPEO: I do, Senator. PORTMAN: Thank you, Mr. Director.

POMPEO: Thank you, Senator Portman.

PORTMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your indulgence.

CORKER: Thank you. We're beginning the second round now. They'll be five minutes and I haven't heard from Mary Alice (ph). Are you ready?

POMPEO: May we take just five minutes, Senator?

[13:34:49] CORKER: Yes, sir. We'll take a five-minute recess and we'll reconvene at 1:40.

POMPEO: Thank you.

[13:34:55] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Three hours-plus into this hearing. The first recess so far. They've got a lot more questions. All members of this committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, so far 11 Republicans, 10 Democrats, they've asked their questions and now they're going into a second round following this brief, brief recess.

Lots to assess. Lots of news coming from the secretary of state nominee, Mike Pompeo, on the Robert Mueller investigation, a possible Syria attack, U.S. Russian relations, the Iran nuclear deal, North Korea.

Let's start with what he had to say on Robert Mueller.

Jim Sciutto, let me get your thoughts. He did confirm that he did appear before Robert Mueller's special counsel team and answer questions presumably on that meeting he had with the president?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And then asked, though, in that meeting he had with the president in the Oval Office very early in the president's term, when it's been reported the president asked if James Comey can lay off, in effect, Michael Cohen, the investigation. His answer on that was -- he said, I don't recall, he said, and he said this a number of times, whether any request was made. But he also said the president never asked me to do anything remotely improper, I believe.

Now, those two sentences by definition are inconsistent. He doesn't recall, but he can assure us he was not asked to do anything improper. He was pressed by that on Senator Chris Murphy just a short time ago, and he said, well, listen, if he had asked me to do something inappropriate, I would have remembered it.

Now, we know that Senator, rather DNI, Dan Coats, director of National Intelligence, also a Trump appointee, he has told colleagues that the president did ask them if Comey would lay off Michael Flynn. This presents for Pompeo two possibilities. Either he does not remember the president asking the director of the FBI to lay off a national securities adviser who was under federal investigation, he doesn't recall that, which you would have to say whether that passed the smell test, or he does not believe that was an inappropriate request to make. That's still a troubling answer to that question.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And several of the Democratic Senators tried to get at him in various ways. You mentioned Chris Murphy. Chris Coons, of Delaware, tried to get at it with his world view. He was doing things by the book as the FBI did was not American. He danced around that, but he did say something interesting as part of his answer there, which was if the president ends up firing Robert Mueller, would he resign? And effectively his answer was no.

BLITZER: He wouldn't resign because he's got a very important mission as secretary of state to continue to achieve those goals.

John, what did you think?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: To the point where he wouldn't even say it was an attack on America was an interesting answer. He did try to help himself, if you will, by saying, but the agency, the CIA, which he runs now, are getting constant requests to help with these investigations by the intelligence and to be as quick as you can and as cooperative as you can. People will look at this and the Democrats will not be happy with those answers. Republicans, some of whom -- I think most Republicans would like him to come out and say Robert Mueller's investigation is not an attack on America. Most Republicans in the Senate -- some, not all -- is looking for him to push back against the president's instincts to fire people or keep attacking the people or the institutions they work for. Is it enough to change any of the votes up there? I suspect not.

BLITZER: It's interesting, Nia, that the secretary of state nominee confirmed that, yes, he was asked to appear before Mueller's investigators and he went, and he answered their questions.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICS WRITER: Yes, and in some ways, he was trying to use that conversation to essentially say, this is why I can't go into any details. He talked to Mueller, he talked to people on the Hill, too, but kept dancing around it essentially at every point. He said this is not something I can talk about, there's reinvestigations going on. Obviously, the Mueller investigation, several investigations going on in Congress, but you did see people try to press almost every Democrat. Menendez at first trying to tie it to, if you can't comment on how the president is framing this and framing Russia, then how can you really be secretary of state and have a sort of global view on what the relationship with Russia should be? That's what Jeanne Shaheen tried to do. Kind of tie those to things --


KING: This question is about to explode again, at least with the Comey book.

HENDERSON: That's right.

KING: The idea, again, if you believe James Comey, the president had asked him, can you back off Michael Flynn? Comey says no. Then the president is looking for other help. Can you go to Jim Comey, can you go to Jim Comey, how do I make this go away? Is that the president trying to help his, quote, unquote, "friend" Michael Flynn, or is that the president trying to actively obstruct a federal investigation in not only into Michael Flynn's conduct but the president's conduct. With the Comey book coming out, all of these questions will be --


[13:40:06] MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Pompeo was really helping himself in the way he's choosing to answer these questions. He chose the words, "I don't recall," before he chose --


BASH: -- prepping for information in the handbook.

KOSINSKI: If he had asked me something improper, then I would have remembered that. Is it really so hard to say one word, "no," in response to words as extreme as "an attack on our country." Is that really such a stretch if you're then going to go back and say, I am helping with that investigation?

SCIUTTO: It's a stretch when it puts you at lager heads with the president. He would be contradicting the president if he said that. Of course, he's working for the president. There was another moment in the hearings where he was willing to contradict --


SCIUTTO: the president on the causes in the trouble in the relationship ---


BLITZER: We'll get to that in a moment because that's was a sensitive moment. The president was United States was at least in part blaming the Russia probe for the deterioration in U.S.-Russia relations. And Mike Pompeo said flatly it was the Russians' bad behavior that was responsible for that deterioration in the relationship.

All right. This committee has finished up its recess. The chairman is there once again asking members to speak out. But I think Bob Menendez -- let's listen in.

[13:41:22] CORKER: Without objection.

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ, (D), NEW JERSEY: Director, I want to go back to my first line of questioning, and you know, for me, all of these hearings, whether it be about a witness on the subject or a nomination and certainly for a nomination the secretary of state, which is fourth in line to accession is important, is super important. And when I asked you about the March 22, 2017 meeting, your first answer to me was, I'm not going to -- I'm reading directly from the transcript -- "I'm not going to talk about conversations the president and I had." Then, when I pressed you further, you said you didn't recall. "I don't

recall what he asked me that day precisely." Now, that seemed to be going from, I had a conversation. I know what the conversation was about, but I'm not going to talk about it, to that, I don't recall it now, what was asked.

And then you gave a blanket conversation of that you've never been asked to anything wrong, well -- or improper. Well, if you -- if you don't want to talk about it and then you can't remember it, I don't know how you jumped to that conclusion.

So, it's concerning to me because we need a secretary of state who will be forthright with us and who will be forthcoming as well. Let me ask you this. Let me turn this picture up for you. On April 4th, this picture was taken. Can you tell me what's wrong with the photo?

POMPEO: Senator, you'll have to help me.


POMPEO: I've seen this picture before or a similar picture.

MENENDEZ: I would hope you could tell me what's wrong, but here, I'll give it to you, in the interest of time. What's wrong is that the -- the United States of America isn't there. What's wrong is that Iran, Russia, Turkey, supposedly a NATO ally, who is purchasing an S-400 missile system from Russia in (inaudible) -- contravention of the mandatory sanctions that this institution passed 98 to two, and its law.

Turkey is supposed to our NATO ally, who's fighting the same Kurds that we have depended upon to defeat ISIS.

These three leaders are engaged of the question of what to do about Syria. And the United States isn't even present. So what's the implications for example for our ally the state of Israel if a Russia, Turkey, Iran alliance is unchallenged in shaping the outcome of Syria?

POMPEO: Senator, I largely agree with the (inaudible) of your question. We need to have a robust diplomatic effort related to the very sight of issues you're describing.

They were there for the purpose of discussing what was - how they were gong to carve up Syria. That's a rough statement of their mission, and that's what they were there for.

The American people need to be represented that they - also that we can be part of that conversation--

MENENDEZ: So, what's our strategy - what's our strategy?

POMPEO: Senator, I'll walk you through what we're trying to accomplish in Syria is difficult, I'll concede, it is incredibly complex. And Turkey's entry in to (inaudible) took a already incredibly complex situation. And put another twist in the cartwheel. So, if you'll bear with me, we have the primary mission that we've been engaged in to defeat ISIS. We did so using a group of men who did great work. And we took the (inaudible) down, and we ought to be proud of it. There is still work to do, that mission is not yet complete.

MENENDEZ: Next element of it, I - I need you to be precise because Chairman, even though I asked for a longer periods of time for this questioning like we do with secretary Tillerson. He's gong to be wrapping that gabble, so.

POMPEO: Senator, to talk about serious strategy in two minutes is a - an enormous challenge.

MENENDEZ: Just give me the elements of this challenge.

POMPEO: So, the other objective is to achieve a diplomatic outcome, such that there's stability, we can take down the violence, and so this is a diplomatic task. So that we get tot a place where the Syrian people can ultimately govern themselves, and our goal is to make to that a post Assad Syria one day.

MENENDEZ: Let me ask you - let me move to another part nearby in the world, Iran. Is it in the United States national security interests to unilaterally withdrawal from the Iran agreement without a strategy for what comes next?

POMPEO: Senator, I am confident that whatever course the administration takes, we will have a strategy.

MENENDEZ: Well - so, you're answering yes, it is in the national security interest to withdrawal because you'll have a strategy, is that what your answer is?

POMPEO: It is - it is a national security interest that no matter which course we take on, we should develop a strategy to achieve the objectives that think we all share to prevent Iran from having-

MENENDEZ: If the president unilaterally withdrawals from the JCPOA in May, what does the administration intend to do? What will you be recommending in terms of reinstating the pre JCPOA sanctions on Iran, and on those countries who engage with Iran?

POMPEO: That is an active policy discussion around all of these issues about how this will proceed in the next 30 days, and the days there after. The objective is very clear. The objective is to fix the short comings of the Iran deal, that will true on May 11th-

MENENDEZ: But does that mean-

POMPEO: May 12th.

MENENDEZ: But does that mean snapping back sanctions?

POMPEO: May 13th.

MENENDEZ: Does that mean snapping back sanctions? POMPEO: Senator, I don't want to speculate on what we'll do.

MENENDEZ: I'll tell you the problem with the nominee director, you want me to put my faith in you, but I can't do that blindly. I have to have some sense of what you'll be advocating, even if it's not what the president decides.

Is it to put back sanctions, does the sanctions depend upon whether the Europeans are going to be in sync with us? And if we - they're not, and we put back sanctions, are they going to ultimately come along with us? Or are they going to reciprocate and say we're going to put sanctions and tell our companies not to do it.

And if we don't snap sanctions back, are we nothing but a toothless tiger? You see, this is the critical questions that I'm looking to understand what you will advocate for.

And it's not that you come as a candidate here who hasn't had dealings with this issue, because in a different context the CIA director, you have had dealing with this issue. So that's what I'm trying to claim here and I'm not getting it from you, so (inaudible) for me.

POMPEO: I - I - have Senator. I - I have had dealings with it Senator and I have at the deep urging of the (inaudible) avoided being part of the policy discussions around this. As you'll note, some are going to critique me for entering those discussions too much. So with your permission, it's hard to hypothesize about what the conditions will be in May and how close we may be to achieving the President's objective through diplomacy to speculate on how we might respond at the - it's - it's difficult. I know that's what you're asking me to do and I simply - I can't. It's a hypothetical situation about which we - we still have a number of facts that are unavailable.

MENENDEZ: Well, I - I was asking you for a strategy, not goals, and I don't think that a strategy is one that invades the space that you presently occupy with the space you hope to occupy. And so, it just - make it a lot easier for me when I have to vote on you to understand what you'll be advocating for.

CORKER: Senator Gardner.

GARDNER: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Director Pompeo thank you again for your testimony. I think you've done an incredible job today challenging us and also bring forth - being very forward in your -- your answers and I appreciate that today and it will serve you well as Secretary of State and I look forward to supporting you.

There's been some news that was made while you were -- in the testimony earlier today by President Trump. I think has directed, according to news reports, Ambassador Lighthizer along with Larry Kudlow to open up the new possibility of re-engaging in the Trans- Pacific Partnership. And so leading into this question on China, the National Security Strategy released in 2017 says China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interest attempting to erode American security and prosperity. China seeks to displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region, expand its reaches of state-driven economic model, reorder the region it's favor. China is using economic inducements, penalties, influence operations and implied military threats to persuade other states to heed its political insecurity agenda.

I talked earlier about the clear militarization of the South China Seas, talked about the fact that they are now conducting or at least planning to conduct live fire exercises in the Taiwan Straits - Straits of Taiwan. Can you talk about this, perhaps including even TPP, how that can counter China's influence and what we need to do to make sure that we have a policy toward China?

POMPEO: Senator I was - that news was news to me. But I have - I've watched the Administration and I - my record (inaudible) - I supported TPP when I was a member of Congress. There is an economic - there is an economic component to what China is trying to do. We need to be engaged. It is a diplomatic component to the economic activity as well. We need to be deeply engaged there and I'm confident this Administration will do that.

GARDNER: Thank you Director Pompeo. Talking a little bit about Southeast Asia and our challenge right now. How many fighters right now from Southeast Asia do you think are in Syria today?

POMPEO: How many?

GARDNER: How many Islamic fighters from Southeast Asia do we estimate are in Syria?

POMPEO: Senator, I don't recall the number. There are many.

GARDNER: And have we seen those go and return to Southeast Asia as well?

POMPEO: We have.

GARDNER: And how was our coordination with those Southeast Asian nations, Philippines, other places, in terms of addressing, monitoring, and combating as they move back?

POMPEO: Without giving too much detail, it is better in some places than in others but in much as we do with our European partners and our partners in the Middle East, we do our best to track these - these terrorists as they move around the world so that we can together identify ways to prevent them from conducting their terror.

GARDNER: The fighters that may have been in Southeast Asia went to Syria and then returned. Do we know if any of them were involved in the incidents in Merawi?

POMPEO: Senator, I don't recall sitting here today.

GARDNER: Thank you. In relations - in regards to Taiwan, the Taiwan Travel Act signed into law March 18, 2018, supported that. I commend the President for signing that. Do you agree with the policy provisions and just at what level would you authorize State Department personnel to visit Taiwan?

[13:51:37] POMPEO: I don't know the answer to that. I'm familiar with the act. I'm familiar with America's One China policy, the communiques. I think there were six. So I know American policy, I know what's there. With respect to the level of appropriate authorities --

BLITZER: We're going to quickly break away from this confirmation hearing to go to the Rose Garden at the White House. The president is speaking out.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They were unable to do it, not as soon as Ronald Reagan, and we topped that one. But they called it tax reform. We discussed that, right? We discussed it. I said we have to call it not tax reform, nobody knows what that means. We can call it tax increase. We call it tax cuts and jobs. And guess what, we got it passed.


TRUMP: I also want to recognize a great friend of mine and a man doing a fantastic job, Vice President Pence.

Mike, stand up. Thank you.


TRUMP: And members of my cabinet. They are working tirelessly. We have Secretary Mnuchin, Secretary Costa, Administrator McMann.

Thank you. Please, stand up.


TRUMP: And all of the members of Congress and Senators, thank you and Congressmen and women, thank you very much.

Most especially I want to thank all of the American workers in the audience -- we have a lot of them -- who have traveled here from all over the country. They wanted to be with us. This event is dedicated to, the hard-working Americans who make our nation run. You love your country, you provide for your family, you're proud of everything you've done, you've got that great extra strength that other people don't have, and you cherish a wonderful thing called our great American flag.


TRUMP: And now because of our tax cuts, you can keep more of your hard-earned money.

Larry Kudlow's very happy about that sitting in the front row.

Right, Larry?


Married couples won't pay a dime of income tax on their first $24,000 of income. A typical family of four earning $75,000 a year will see their tax bill slashed in half. Nobody thought they'd ever see that. You have a lot more money to spend. And we didn't get one Democratic vote. That's tough. In fact, I have to say they want to increase your taxes. If they ever got into power, they said they want to increase your taxes and spend your money on things you don't want to know about.

So we've doubled, very importantly, the child tax credit. They want so many other things and people have wanted other things and, frankly, we fought very hard. We've taken care of our military for the first time in many, many years, $700 billion.


[13:55:03] TRUMP: We're going to have the strongest military that we've ever had. And can you think of a better time to have it, right? This is when we need it.


TRUMP: We're going to have it, $700 billion, and next year $716 billion. Also in that bill, $6 billion for opioid and helping us out with that horrible, horrible problem.


TRUMP: The fact is we don't care about the donors and special interests. We only care about you and your family and really making America great again. That's what we care about. That's why we're here.


TRUMP: From the day I took the oath of office, I've been fighting to drain the swamp and sometimes it may not look like it, but believe me, we are draining the swamp and there are a lot of unhappy people. Every day, all you have to do is turn on the news. Every time you see me hit, you know that I'm draining the swamp. And people don't like it.


TRUMP: But we're also defending the American worker. We're making incredible trade deals, we're taking NAFTA, one of the worst deals ever made in the history of trade, and we are redoing it, and it will be a fair deal for the Americans. We lost thousands of factories and millions of jobs because of NAFTA. Thousands. Think of it. Thousands of factories. Millions of jobs. We're turning it around. Already, Chrysler's coming back with auto plants. Many companies are now in Michigan, Ohio, different places, Pennsylvania. They're building beautiful brand-new auto plants. Nobody thought they'd ever see that happen. Unemployment claims are at their lowest levels in nearly 50 years. Think of that, 50 years.


TRUMP: Something I'm very proud about, unemployment rates for Hispanics and African-Americans have reached the lowest levels ever recorded. Ever recorded. Think of that. Very proud of that.


TRUMP: Remember I used to say at rallies, what do you have to lose? Get what, what do you have to lose? You have the lowest levels ever recorded for African-Americans, Hispanics. I'm very, very happy about that.

By the way, for women, the lowest levels in 19 years. So we have really good numbers.


TRUMP: And something a lot of people didn't think was going to happen, wages are rising at the fastest pace in over a decade. We're cutting record numbers of regulations. We cut more regulations in a year and a quarter than any administration, whether it's four years, eight years or in one case 16 years. Should we go back to 16 years?

Congressman, can we have that extended?

You know the last time I jokingly said that, the papers started saying, he's got despotic tendencies. No, I'm not looking to do it.


Unless you want to do it, that's OK.


We're also unleashing American energy and American energy independence. We're now an exporter of energy. We're doing -- think of this -- 10 million barrels a day. Nobody thought they'd see this, 10 million. In fact, it's going to now been 10 million.

We're cracking down on unfair trade deals, securing our border, stop illegal immigration and restore the rule of law and we've passed the biggest tax cut and reform in American history. More than five million workers have already received a tax cut bonus, a pay raise or a new job thanks to these really massive tax cuts. Millions more --


TRUMP: Millions more are getting higher take-home pay.

No one has been more energized by our tax cuts than American manufacturers.

With us today is the president of the National Association of Manufacturers, Jay Timmons. Where's Jay?


TRUMP: Jay? Stand up, Jay.

Thank you, Jay.


TRUMP: For 20 years, their organization has surveyed American manufacturers, all over the country they survey. And it's a great organization. And they have never before seen the levels of optimism that our tax cuts have delivered.

Is that a correct statement, Jay?

It's dangerous to ask you that because --