Since taking charge at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Director Mike Pompeo has earned a reputation as a strong ally of President Donald Trump, despite breaking with the American leader on some key issues.
When asked Thursday about media reports of Pompeo’s possible nomination as U.S. Secretary of State, both the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence had no comment.
Upon nominating Pompeo to lead the CIA last November, Trump said the graduate of the U.S. Military Academy “has served our country with honor and spent his life fighting for the security of our citizens. … He will be a brilliant and unrelenting leader for our intelligence community to ensure the safety of Americans and our allies.”
Since then, the 53-year-old former three-term congressman from the Midwestern state of Kansas apparently has continued to win Trump’s favor while giving him the CIA’s daily intelligence briefings in person at the White House, rather than delegating that responsibility to a staff aide.
Known for his tough views on terrorism, torture and Iran, Pompeo previously served on the House Intelligence Committee, and quickly won praise from former intelligence officials and lawmakers alike.
And in his first public comments after being sworn-in, Pompeo seemed to cement additional support, backing conclusions by U.S. intelligence agencies about the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks and its connections to Moscow.
“It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is — a non-state, hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,” he told a forum this past April.
“It overwhelmingly focuses on the United States while seeking support from anti-democratic countries and organizations,” he added, calling the celebration of WikiLeaks in some circles “perplexing and deeply troubling.”
Pompeo on Russia
But at other times, Pompeo has garnered criticism for expressing views that seemed more in line with those of the White House, sometimes contradicting the CIA’s own findings.
“The Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election,” Pompeo told an audience in Washington in October.
But an unclassified report by the top U.S. intelligence agencies issued in January made no such claim.
“We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election,” the report said.
Later, the CIA sought to clarify Pompeo’s comments.
“The intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed, and the director did not intend to suggest that it had,” a CIA spokesman said.
At other times, Pompeo has publicly refused to rule out working with Russia in areas such as counterterrorism.
“If Russia has information that can help us fight the CT [counterterror] fight around the world, it’s my duty” to work with them and “the right thing to do,” he said.
Pompeo also was criticized following a report by The Intercept that at the request of the president, he met with a former intelligence official who has been arguing U.S. intelligence officials are unfairly blaming Russia for the leak of Democratic National Committee emails.
Iran, North Korea and counterterror
At the same time, the CIA director has been applauded by some for what they have called a clear-eyed view of U.S. adversaries like Iran, continuing his criticism of the Iran nuclear deal, and North Korea.
“We ought to behave as if we are on the cusp of them [North Korea] achieving that objective,” Pompeo said last month when asked about Pyongyang’s pursuit of missile technology that could launch a warhead to targets in the United States.
“They are so far along in that it’s now a matter of thinking about how do you stop the final step?” he added.
Before his confirmation as CIA director, some critics also voiced concerns about his stance on the use of torture.
Those involved in the CIA interrogation program “are not torturers, they are patriots,” Pompeo said in 2014, adding that the programs were “within the law, within the Constitution and conducted with the full knowledge” of appropriate lawmakers.
During his confirmation hearing, Pompeo told senators he would “absolutely not” bring back such interrogation techniques.
Pompeo, a graduate of Harvard Law School, also drew criticism in 2013 after he suggested Muslim leaders who didn’t publicly condemn terror attacks were “potentially complicit” in the attacks.