Trump's CIA Pick: 'Pretty Clear' Russia Was Behind Election Hacks

Rep. Mike Pompeo offers a stark assessment of threats against the U.S.

ByABC News
January 12, 2017, 11:40 AM

— -- President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the CIA made clear today that he was convinced Russia had launched a massive cyber campaign to influence the U.S. presidential election.

"It's pretty clear about what took place, about Russian involvement in efforts to hack information and have an impact on American democracy," Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, told the Senate Intelligence Committee today as it considers his nomination. "It is something that America needs to take seriously."

Pressed on the matter by the top Democrat on the committee, Mark Warner, D-Virginia, Pompeo described the cyber campaign as "an aggressive action taken by the senior leadership in Russia," and he promised to impress that conclusion to the entire Trump administration so that the "enormous threat" can be addressed.

Trump has unabashedly questioned the U.S. intelligence community's unanimous conclusion that Russia was responsible for the cyber-theft of thousands of damaging documents from the Democratic National Committee and several other cyberattacks targeting political institutions.

But Pompeo, who was among the handful of Trump aides to attend last week's briefing on Russian hacking with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and the current heads of the FBI and CIA, insisted today, "everything I've seen suggests to me that the report [detailing Russian activities] has an analytic product that is sound."

In fact, Pompeo vowed to continue looking into ongoing Russian attempts to undermine the U.S. political system.

"Indeed, I would expect that the president-elect would demand that of me," he said.

Sen. Angus King, D-Virginia, asked Pompeo whether he would be willing to look into the unsubstantiated allegations accusing Trump and his allies of having direct ties and pre-election contacts with Russian officials. The allegations -- still being vetted by the FBI and the rest of the U.S. intelligence community -- were relayed to Trump and President Obama last week.

"I promise I will pursue the facts wherever they take us," Pompeo said, emphasizing that he also viewed the reports as based on "unsubstantiated allegations" and calling media leaks on the matter "intensely serious."

Pompeo said it is "a policy decision as to what to do with Russia, but I understand it will be essential that the agency provide policymakers with accurate intelligence and clear-eyes analysis of Russian activities."

That comment was welcomed by Warner who said he's worried that in recent weeks the "entire intelligence community has repeatedly and unfairly been subjected to criticisms of its integrity," and he demanded Pompeo's "public assurance" to provide "unbiased, unvarnished, and timely intelligence assessments" to the Trump administration and to Congress.

"You and I agree that politics has no place in your new line of business," Warner told Pompeo at the start of the hearing. "Your job will be to give the president the best professional judgment of America’s intelligence expert, the CIA, even when it might be inconvenient or uncomfortable. This intelligence must represent the best judgment of the CIA, whether or not that analysis is in agreement with the views of the president or anyone else who might receive them."

Pompeo also offered lawmakers another stark assessment today: "The world is gaining on the U.S."

"We have long seen this dynamic with the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missile technology, but increasingly in the cyber domain, countries thought to be unsophisticated ... have overcome what appear to be low technological barriers of entry to engage in offensive cyber operations," Pompeo said in prepared remarks.

During his testimony today, Pompeo cited increasing dangers from ISIS, Iran and China, concluding that "this is the most complicated threat environment the U.S. has faced in recent memory."

Pompeo is a three-term congressman and a member of both the House Energy Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, which is responsible for conducting oversight of U.S. intelligence agencies and practices.

He has also served on the House Select Committee on Benghazi. He and fellow conservative Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, published a supplement to the majority report that was sharply critical of Hillary Clinton's State Department and the Obama administration's handling of the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya. The report also accused the administration of misleading the public about events in Libya.

A West Point graduate who graduated first in his class in 1986, Pompeo attended Harvard University Law School after leaving active duty, and was also an editor at the Harvard Law Review.

Pompeo, 52, initially supported Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential campaign, and considered challenging Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran in his Senate primary last year.

He is a staunch critic of President Obama's foreign policy and, particularly, of the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump has also criticized.

ABC News’ Ben Siegel, Katherine Faulders and Devin Dwyer contributed to this story.

Related Topics