ST. GEORGE — Utah’s congressional leaders expressed full support of Mike Pompeo as he was sworn in Monday night as director of the CIA.
Pompeo’s nomination came at a crucial time for U.S. national security as intelligence — traditionally a nonpartisan issue — has been thrust into the political arena.
“You are stepping up to lead the finest intelligence-gathering operation the world has ever seen,” Vice President Mike Pence said during the nighttime swearing-in ceremony. “The men and women serving under your command give true meaning to the word courage.”
The Senate earlier Monday confirmed President Donald Trump’s nominee to run the CIA despite some Democratic objections that the Kansas congressman has been less than transparent about his positions on torture, surveillance and Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election.
The vote was 66-32.
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement released Monday that he is looking forward to working with Pompeo as the nation’s CIA Director.
“Mike Pompeo has become a good friend as we’ve worked closely together on the House Intelligence Committee,” Stewart said. “He will be a tremendous CIA Director at a very important time in our nation’s history. I look forward to continuing to partner with him as we work on intelligence issues.”
Trump has been critical of intelligence agencies since their assessment of Russian involvement to help him win the election, but the new president also has said he is fully behind them.
Senate Republicans had hoped to vote on Pompeo’s nomination Friday, after Trump’s inauguration. But Democrats succeeded in stalling action until they could debate.
Democratic Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden Monday said Pompeo was the “wrong man for the job.”
“He has endorsed extreme policies that would fundamentally erode liberties and freedoms of our people without making us safer,” Wyden said. He said Pompeo’s answers to questions from some senators have been “vague” and “contradictory,” making it impossible to know what Pompeo believes.
“I see no real commitment to transparency and his views on the most fundamental analysis of the day – the involvement of Russia in our election – seemed to shift with those of the president,” Wyden said.
In its final days, President Barack Obama’s administration announced intelligence findings that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election with the goal of getting Trump elected. Trump himself has denied most of the assessment, though eventually conceded Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic emails during the campaign.
In written responses to questions from the Senate, on Jan. 3, Pompeo said only that intelligence agency assessments in general should be taken seriously. After Trump conceded Russia was behind the campaign hacks, Pompeo on Jan. 12 told the Senate intelligence committee that particular assessment was “solid.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the longest serving Republican in the history of the Senate Intelligence Committee, issued a statement Monday in support of Pompeo.
“Throughout his life, Mike Pompeo has proven himself to be a true patriot and a tireless champion of our national security,” Hatch said. “His background as an Army veteran, an accomplished attorney, a successful businessman, and a rising star in the House of Representatives makes him an excellent choice to lead the CIA. I have no doubt that he will keep our nation safe and lead the brave men and women of the Agency with honor and distinction.”
Evan McMullin, who ran a campaign for the presidency in the 2016 general election, has expressed support for Pompeo’s appointment.
In a Nov. 18, 2016, tweet, McMullin wrote:
.@RepMikePompeo is a good pick for CIA. He’s very smart, has already served our nation, actively seeks new information, & is strong-willed.
— Evan McMullin (@Evan_McMullin) November 18, 2016
McMullin, a former CIA operative, ran his presidential campaign out of Utah purporting to be the conservative alternative to Trump and has been highly critical of the president and his cabinet appointments, but his endorsement of Pompeo is an exception.
Pompeo, a conservative Republican from Kansas and a member of the House intelligence committee, faced a mostly friendly confirmation hearing Jan. 12.
In a meeting at CIA headquarters Saturday, Trump profusely praised Pompeo.
“I met Mike Pompeo, and it was the only guy I met. I didn’t want to meet anybody else. I said, cancel everybody else. Cancel,” Trump said. “Now, I must say, I didn’t mind cancelling eight appointments. That wasn’t the worst thing in the world. But I met him and I said, he is so good. Number one in his class at West Point.”
He enrolled as a teenager at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, and graduated first in his class in 1986. He served in the Army at a time when the Soviet Union was America’s No. 1 adversary.
Associated Press writers EILEEN SULLIVAN and DEB RIECHMANN contributed to this report.
Email: [email protected]
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.