On Monday evening, Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas was confirmed by the Senate as director of the CIA, despite Democrats’ concerns about his view on domestic surveillance and torture, and previous claims that Muslims are not doing enough to stand up to terrorism. Pompeo was sworn in by Vice-President Mike Pence several hours later.
The vote was 66-32, with Rand Paul and more than half of the Democrats voting against Pompeo. Several prominent Democrats voted to confirm, including Chuck Schumer, Tim Kaine, and Dianne Feinstein.
Democrat Ron Wyden led the opposition, grilling Pompeo for more than an hour during his hearing. In summer 2015 Congress let the collection of Americans’ phone data in bulk lapse, but as a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Pompeo argued it should be reinstated in expanded. “Congress should pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata, and combining it with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database,” Pompeo said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published a year ago.
Pompeo has said he’s open to reinstating waterboarding, which was banned in the Army Field Manual under President Obama, and Trump said on the campaign trail that he would allow “much worse.” Pompeo told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he would not authorize any enhanced interrogation techniques that fall outside the Army Field Manual. However, he also said he would consider rewriting the rules if experts say banning waterboarding is “an impediment to gathering vital intelligence.”
“His record reveals extreme positions, including enthusiasm for sweeping new surveillance programs targeting Americans and an openness to sending our country backward with regard to torture,” Wyden said in a statement. “Furthermore, his views on intelligence assessments on Russian interference in our election shifted along with the president’s, raising questions about the nominee’s objectivity.”
Pompeo said during his hearing that he considers the U.S. spy agencies’ conclusion that Russia meddled with the U.S. election “sound.” He said he would continue investigating the issue, even if it caused problems for the president. “I promise you I will pursue the facts wherever they take us … with respect to this issue and with respect to every other issue,” he said.
Other Democrats said they were voting against Pompeo due to his “troubling” remarks about Muslims. In 2013, Pompeo told Congress that Muslim leaders in the U.S. aren’t doing enough to combat terrorism and their silence is “deafening.” He added that Muslim leaders who fail to condemn terror attacks committed by those with radical Islamic beliefs are “potentially complicit in these acts, and more importantly still, in those that may well follow.”
Republicans wanted Pompeo confirmed on Friday, arguing that no more debate was needed, and it’s dangerous not to have a permanent CIA director in place. “This is a man who understands exactly what it takes to keep America safe,” said Republican senator Tom Cotton.
Pompeo was voted into Congress in 2010 as part of the tea-party wave. He graduated at the top of his class at West Point, then earned a law degree from Harvard. He is the third member of Trump’s cabinet to be confirmed.