CIA Director Mike Pompeo, President Trump’s pick for secretary of state, confirmed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday that he has been interviewed by Robert Mueller for the special counsel’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia.
“I spoke with special counsel Mueller, who interviewed me,” Pompeo said in his testimony before the committee, which is considering his nomination. “I cooperated.”
NBC News first reported Pompeo’s interview with the special counsel in January.
Pompeo — who was part of a key meeting during which Trump reportedly asked for help intervening in the investigation — refused to answer questions about his conversations with the president or with Mueller. But Pompeo insisted that Trump never asked him to do anything he’d consider improper.
“I’m not going to talk about the conversations the president and I had,” Pompeo said.
The Washington Post reported last year that in March 2017, Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats attended a briefing at the White House with Trump and officials from several government agencies. According to the paper, when the meeting was over, Trump told Pompeo and Coats to stay in the room, and the president proceeded to complain about the Russia investigation, which was being led by then-FBI Director James Comey.
Days earlier, Comey had testified before Congress that Trump himself was a subject of the federal investigation.
Pompeo said the article’s suggestion that Trump asked him “to do anything improper is false.”
When asked by Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., whether Trump had asked him to “do anything” about the Russia probe, Pompeo replied, “I don’t recall.”
“I don’t recall what he asked me that day,” Pompeo said. “But I have to tell you, I’m with the president an awful lot. He has never asked me to do anything that I’d consider remotely improper.”
Menendez then asked Pompeo whether Trump had ever discussed the FBI or special counsel’s investigation with him.
“Senator, again, I’m not going to talk about private conversations I’ve had with the president,” Pompeo said, insisting that he wasn’t asserting executive privilege in refusing to discuss his conversations with Trump.
Later, when pressed by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., about his recollection, Pompeo said, “If he asked me to do something inappropriate, I’d remember.”
Pompeo began the confirmation hearing by declaring that as secretary of state, “job No. 1 is to represent the president.”
And when asked by Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., whether he would resign if Trump were to fire Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Pompeo said he would not.
“I haven’t given that question any thought, and my instincts tell me no,” he said. “My instincts tell me that my obligation to continue to serve as America’s senior diplomat will be more important at increased times of political domestic turmoil.”
After discussing his belief that previous secretaries of state had stayed the course, Pompeo said he was “confident” that not resigning if there were interference into the special counsel’s investigation was the path that he would take. Coons urged Pompeo to give it some more thought.
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., pressed him on the same question later in the hearing and Pompeo offered the same answer, stating that administration officials did not resign during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment.
Pompeo also repeatedly refused to say whether he agrees with Trump’s characterization of the Mueller investigation as “an attack on our country.”
“These are complex legal issues the special counsel is involved in,” Pompeo said. “I have done my best as CIA director to separate each and every element of it. It is a minefield.”
— With Yahoo News’ Christopher Wilson contributing reporting
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