WASHINGTON — U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to run the CIA says he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely satisfied with the political furor in the United States over what U.S. intelligence calls a Russian hacking campaign to meddle in the presidential election.
Representative Mike Pompeo (Republican-Kansas) said during the January 12 confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee that it would not be surprising if Russia’s leadership sees the uproar “as something that might well rebound to their benefit.”
“I have no doubt that the discourse that’s been taking place 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, to suggest somehow that American democracy was not unique,'” Pompeo said.
Trump has publicly questioned the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions about Russian involvement, though a day earlier he acknowledged that Moscow was likely behind the cyberattacks targeting the campaign of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Trump insists, however, that the meddling had no impact on the outcome of the election.
Pompeo was responding to a question by Senator Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida) about the hacking campaign, in which Russia denies its involvement, and unsubstantiated claims that surfaced recently alleging that Russia possesses compromising information on Trump.
Pompeo said he accepts the assessment by U.S. intelligence that Russia was behind the cyberattacks.
Pompeo told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he attended last week’s meeting at which top U.S. officials briefed Trump on the matter.
“Everything I’ve seen suggests to me that the report has an analytical product that is sound,” Pompeo said.
Russia denies it was behind the cyberattacks.
Pompeo also said he believes Russia is “threatening Europe” while “doing nearly nothing” to destroy Islamic State (IS) militants.
“Russia has reasserted itself aggressively, invading and occupying Ukraine, threatening Europe, and doing nearly nothing to aid in the destruction of ISIS,” Pompeo said in his written testimony submitted to the committee, using an alternate acronym for IS.
Trump has said he wants better relations with Russia, including greater bilateral cooperation in fighting IS militants in Syria.
Pompeo also said he would drop his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal if confirmed for the post and focus on “aggressive” verification that Tehran is complying with the terms of the accord.
A fierce critic of the deal between Iran and world powers during his time in Congress, Pompeo said in his confirmation hearing that he would have a different role if the Senate confirms his nomination.
“While I opposed the Iran deal as a member of Congress, if confirmed, my role would change — I’ll lead the [Central Intelligence] Agency to aggressively pursue collection operations and ensure analysts have the time, political space, and resources to make objective and sound judgments,” Pompeo said.
Trump has previously said he could scrap or renegotiate the deal.
Pompeo has said that the CIA must be “rigorously fair and objective” in assessing the accord.
In his testimony, he called Iran “the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror” and said the Islamic republic “has become an even more emboldened and disruptive player in the Middle East.”