CIA Director Mike Pompeo sounded like a Magic 8-Ball when he was answering questions about Russia during his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday.
Pompeo, in line to replace the recently fired Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, was grilled on a range of pressing foreign policy matters. President Trump’s habit of surrounding himself with “yes” men and war hawks got its fair share of airtime, as did Pompeo's views on North Korea and Iran.
But the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, especially its Democratic members, quickly honed in on Russia. Specifically, they wanted to know how Pompeo plans to handle Trump’s hints of firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the Russia investigation in general.
To start, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez asked Pompeo if Trump had ever requested that he do anything as it relates to the Russia investigation. “Senator, I don't recall,” Pompeo responded.
Reply hazy. Try again, Mr. Pompeo.
Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons also asked Pompeo if he would resign in protest if Trump fired special counsel Robert Mueller or Rosenstein.
“My instincts tell me no,” Pompeo said.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself after failing to disclose multiple meetings with the Russian ambassador during the 2016 campaign, giving Rosenstein hiring and firing power over special counsel Bob Mueller. Mueller is overseeing the investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russians.
Trump has repeatedly attacked the investigation, calling it a “witch hunt.“ He’s even reportedly considered firing Mueller — even though he technically can’t do that. To get around that, Trump has also reportedly thought about firing Rosenstein in favor of finding someone who would.
Sen. Coons continued to push for answers on the Russia investigation, asking Pompeo if he believed “special counsel Mueller's investigation is an attack on our country and all we stand for.”
The former CIA director essentially responded “Ask again later.”
“Senator, I hope you’ll take this the right way,” Pompeo said. “As the director of the CIA, I have been involved in that investigation .… I think anything I say with respect, I just I want to avoid that today.”
Pompeo did, eventually, answer some Russia-related questions.
When asked about the U.S.' relationship with Russia, he mildly diverged from the president, saying, “The historic conflict between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., and now Russia, is caused by Russian bad behavior.”
Although the president has admitted to having a less than ideal relationship with Russia, he pinned some of the blame on the “Fake & Corrupt Russian Investigation, headed up by the all Democrat loyalists, or people that worked for Obama,” on Twitter on Wednesday.
Ahead of the hearing, protesters stormed the nominee, chanting, "No Pompeo! No more war!"
Cover image: CIA Director Mike Pompeo smiles after his introductions before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a confirmation hearing on his nomination to be Secretary of State, Thursday, April 12, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington.