New Senator Presses Trump's CIA Nominee on LGBT-Friendly Policies for Spies

By Susan Jones | January 13, 2017 | 10:00am EST
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) raises LGBT discrimination, climate change with Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas), Donald Trump's pick for CIA director. (Screen grab from C-SPAN)

( - Newly elected Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, repeatedly pressed Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) at his confirmation hearing on Wednesday for assurances that he will not discriminate against homosexuals and Muslims if he is confirmed as CIA director.

She also brought up climate change, which has little or nothing to do with the job for which Pompeo was nominated.

Right from the start, Harris indicated that because Pompeo supports traditional marriage, he might discriminate against LGBT employees.

"Your voting record and stated position on gay marriage and the importance of having a quote-unquote 'traditional family structure' for raising children is pretty clear," Harris told Pompeo. "I disagree with your position. But of course you're entitled to your opinion. I don't want that, however to impact...the recruitment or retention of patriotic LGBT women and men in the CIA, some of whom have, of course, taken great risks to their lives for our country.

"Can you commit to me that your personal views on this issue will remain your personal views and will not impact internal policies that you put in place at the CIA?" she asked.

"Senator Harris, you have my full commitment to that. I would only add that in my life as a private businessman, this same set of issues was out there. I had my views at that time as well. And I treated each and every member of the workforce that I was responsible for at those times with dignity and respect and demanded of them the same things that I demanded of every other person that was working as part of my team," Pompeo said.

Harris continued: "And do I have your assurance that this equal treatment will include policies related to child care services, family benefits, and accompanied posts for dependents?"

Pompeo, taken aback, told Harris, "Without knowing the full set of policies and benefits at the Central Intelligence Agency, I haven't had the chance to find that out just yet. You have my assurance that every employee will be treated in a way that is appropriate and equal."

Harris again: “And that you will not put in place any policies that would discriminate against any members because of their sexual orientation?”

"Ma'am, I can't imagine putting in place any place any policy that was discriminatory with respect to any employee," Pompeo said.

Harris also expressed concern about "rhetoric related to Muslims" coming from top members of the Trump team: "I don't want that to impact recruitment or retention of the patriotic and critically important Muslim men and women of the CIA, some of course, who have taken great risks to serve our country.”

Harris asked Pompeo if he'd be a "tireless advocate" for all members of the CIA workforce.

"Yes, ma'am," he replied.

Harris then went on to ask Pompeo if he believes the CIA finding that climate change is one of the causes of rising instability in the world.

Pompeo noted that the CIA's role is to collect foreign intelligence and to understand threats such as poor governance and regional instability. “And to the extent that changes in climactic activity are part of that foreign intelligence collection task, we will deliver that information to you,” he said.

Harris wasn’t done. “In the past you have questioned the scientific consensus on climate change," she persisted. She pointed to a NASA study, backed by “most of the leading science organizations worldwide,” saying that humans cause climate change: “Do you have any reason to doubt NASA’s findings?” she asked.

Pompeo politely told Harris that as director of CIA, he "would prefer today not to get into the details of climate debate and science." He told her it would have very little to do with his job.

“So I’m not clear, do you believe NASA’s findings are debatable?” Harris asked.

“Senator, I have to tell you, I haven’t spent enough time to tell you that I’ve looked at NASA’s findings in particular,” Pompeo said. “I can’t give you any judgment about that today.”

Harris asked Pompeo, “Can you guarantee me that you will (look at NASA’s findings) and we’ll have a follow up conversation on this?”

“I’m happy to continue to talk about it, yes ma’am, of course.”

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