CAPITOL HILL - President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA promised to maintain a “clear-eyed” view of Russia and said he would not comply with any White House order to restart the use of torture tactics.
“You have my commitment that every day I will speak truth to power,” said Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo of Kansas at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday.
Pompeo said he accepts the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia meddled in last year’s presidential election won by Trump, describing the report as “sound.”
“It’s a longstanding effort of the Russians,” he added. “It is something America needs to take seriously and a threat that we are vulnerable to today.
"I have no doubt that the discourse that’s been taking place [in America] is something that Vladimir Putin would look at and say, ‘wow, that was among the objectives that I had, to sow doubt among the American political community," he said.
WATCH: Pompeo on Russian cyber threat
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California noted that, during the campaign, Trump spoke favorably of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” to extract information from terror suspects. Pompeo himself criticized President Barack Obama for reining in the tactics.
“If you were ordered by the president to restart the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques that fall outside of the Army Field Manual, would you comply?” Feinstein asked.
“Absolutely not,” Pompeo replied. “I can’t imagine that I would be asked that by the president-elect or, then, the president … I’ll always comply with the law.”
WATCH: Pompeo on torture
Feinstein also pressed the nominee on his opposition to the international nuclear accord with Iran. Pompeo did not discuss the merits of the pact but pledged continued close monitoring of Tehran’s compliance with it.
Mass data collection
Another Democrat, Ron Wyden of Oregon, pressed the nominee for limitations on the massive amount of data on ordinary citizens that U.S. intelligence agencies can scoop up.
“Are there any boundaries, in your view, to something this sweeping?” Wyden asked.
Pompeo noted that legal boundaries already exist, but added that he supports metadata collection.
“The American people demand that if there is publicly available information – someone has out there on their publicly-available site – I think we have an obligation to use that information to keep Americans safe.”
Of Trump’s picks for top administration posts, Pompeo, who has served on the House Intelligence Committee, is among those most likely to earn bipartisan Senate backing. Introducing him at his confirmation hearing was a fellow-Kansan, former Republican senator Bob Dole.
“I know this man and I know he’ll do a great job,” Dole said. “You’ve got a good candidate here.”
Trump himself chimed in on Twitter Friday morning.
All of my Cabinet nominee are looking good and doing a great job. I want them to be themselves and express their own thoughts, not mine!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 13, 2017