Pompeo: ‘I’m Not Going to Talk About the Conversations the President and I Had’

By Melanie Arter | April 12, 2018 | 10:01 PM EDT

CIA Director Mike Pompeo (Screenshot)

(CNSNews.com) - During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Thursday on the nomination of CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be secretary of State, Pompeo refused to answer questions about his conversations with President Donald Trump as it pertained to the FBI or special counsel’s Russia investigation, but he stressed that Trump never asked him to do anything improper.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) asked Pompeo about a reported meeting on March 22, 2017 that Pompeo had with Trump and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, during which, according to the Washington Post, Trump complained about the investigation and then-FBI Director James Comey’s handling of it.

According to the Post’s report, Coats refused to intervene with Comey as the president reportedly suggested, telling anonymous officials that it would be inappropriate.

“So, Director, this account strongly suggests that the president asked you and Director Coats to interfere with then-FBI Director Comey’s investigations into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia. What did President Trump say to you and Director Coats in that meeting?” Menendez asked.

“Senator, I’m not going to talk about the conversations the president and I had. I think it’s-- in this setting, appropriate for a president to have an opportunity to talk with his senior leaders. I’ll do that throughout the day, but I will tell you this: the article’s suggestion that he asked me to do anything improper is false,” Pompeo said.

“Did he ask you to do anything as it relates to that investigation?” Menendez asked.

Pompeo said he didn’t recall but that the president has never asked him to do something “remotely improper.”

“Senator, I don’t recall. I don’t recall what he asked me that day precisely, but I have to tell you, I’m with the president an awful lot. He has never asked me to do anything that I considered remotely improper,” Pompeo said.

When asked whether Pompeo was exerting executive privilege, Pompeo said, “No, senator. I believe, and I think you will agree, we’ll talk about foreign policy issues.”

Menendez interrupted Pompeo, insisting that his question “has a connotation of foreign policy, because this is about Russia.”

“And so at the end of the day, understanding how you responded, what you will do as we’re looking at mandatory sanctions that the administration has yet to impose, looking at how we’re going to deal with a Russia that not only sought to affect our last elections, but he’s doing so even as we speak - both here at home and across the world - those are substantive questions,” the senator said.

“And so it’s not for me just simply a question of interest. It’s a question of understanding what you were asked, how you responded, and what you did,” Menendez added.

Pompeo said he’s “happy to talk about this administration’s work on Russia” and “about our work on sanctions, if that’s what’s your question.”

When Menendez asked Pompeo if Trump ever discussed the FBI or Special Counsel’s Russia investigation with Pompeo, the CIA director said, “I’m not going to talk about private conversations I’ve had with the president.”

“So whenever you come, if you were to be confirmed in the future, we’re gonna try and talk about foreign policy, and we ask you where is the president at on this or that, you’re not going to--” Menendez said.

“Senator, I’m happy to answer questions about our administration’s policies, the work that we’re doing,” Pompeo interjected. “You’re asking about conversations. You should know, senator as well, I have provided-- I spoke with Special Counsel Mueller, who interviewed me and requested an interview. I cooperated.

“Your colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee have asked for information from me and from the Central Intelligence Agency as has the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. I think the leaders of those two organizations in a bipartisan way would say I’ve been cooperative,” Pompeo added.

Pompeo confirmed that he had spoken with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but refused to say what the subject of their conversation was.

When asked whether Mueller asked Pompeo “not to speak about these things,” the CIA director said, “Senator, I have cooperated with multiple investigations.

“While the investigation continues, I think that’s the appropriate way to approach it, and you should know, and no one here should take away any because of the fact that I don’t want to speak out, there should be no negative inferences with respect to anything or for that matter positive inferences about the fact that I think it’s most appropriate that while these investigations continue, I not speak to the conversation I’ve had with the various investigating bodies,” he added.

Menendez said he’s sure that if he talked to Mueller and asked whether he told Pompeo he couldn’t talk about his conversation with Mueller, “I don’t think he would say you couldn’t, so it’s your choice that you’re not seeking to do so, and for me, these questions being answered truthfully in a forthcoming way are critically important, because it goes to the very essence of how you approach one of the most critical issues we have, and your unwillingness to speak to it is troubling to me.”

 


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