President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, Rep. Mike Pompeo, on Thursday said he backs the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia orchestrated cyber operations aimed at having “an impact in American democracy.”
The Kansas Republican also pledged during his confirmation hearing that he would continue probing Russia’s intelligence activities against the United States, “wherever they take us.”
Pompeo told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he accepts the U.S. intelligence report that concluded the Russian government engaged in a hacking and disinformation campaign in an attempt to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and U.S. politics as a whole. He also said he attended Friday’s meeting in which Trump, when the president-elect was briefed on the intel report and the two-page summary of the unsubstantiated dossier. Pompeo noted that everything he has seen “suggests the report has an analytical product that is sound.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked Pompeo how he would handle Trump’s “refutation of the intelligence community’s high assessments” that Russian intelligence hacked and phished into the “campaigns and parties of both political parties” in 2016.
“It’s pretty clear” that Russia was involved, Pompeo responded.
When it comes to discussing intelligence findings with Trump, Pompeo said, “my obligation as director of this agency is to tell every policymaker the facts as best the intelligence agency has developed them.”
Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he thinks Russia was behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee. But in the same press conference he later said it “could have been someone else.” Trump and his team had previously expressed skepticism about the validity of the claims that Russia was culpable.
A Trump spokeswoman did not respond to request for comment.
Democrats pressed Pompeo for assurance that he would be able to brief Trump on the findings of the CIA’s investigations even if it leads to an uncomfortable conversation.
“Your job will be to give the president the best professional judgment of America’s intelligence experts at CIA, even when it might be inconvenient or uncomfortable,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the committee’s vice chairman.
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) brought up the biggest intelligence event of the week. “There are unsubstantiated media reports that there were contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians,” he said, referring to an unverified memo first reported by CNN that also suggests Russia has compromising personal and financial information on Trump. “If confirmed, will you commit to exploring those questions, and if you find there is a validity to those allegations, refer the information that you discovered to the FBI?”
“I promise I will pursue the facts wherever they take us,” Pompeo said. He also said he considers the leaks of the memo to the media to be “intensely serious.”
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement Wednesday that he doesn’t think the leak of the dossier came from the intelligence community, adding that it was floated “among the media, members of Congress and congressional staff” before the intelligence community was in possession of the dossier.