Nov 18, 2016 1:25 PM

Trump taps conservative Kansas congressman for CIA

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump's pick to be director of the CIA, is a hard-line Republican congressman from the deeply red state of Kansas who shares the president-elect's pugnacious worldview and, like Trump, spent years as a businessman before becoming a politician.

Pompeo has heavily criticized the landmark Iran nuclear deal, blasted Hillary Clinton over the attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya and her use of a private email server, and believes Edward Snowden is a traitor who deserves a death sentence.

Before taking over the spy agency, Pompeo has to be confirmed by the GOP-led Senate. One issue that could dominate the confirmation hearing is Pompeo's view on using harsh interrogation techniques on detainees. Trump has backed these techniques, saying, "We should go tougher than waterboarding," which simulates drowning.

In a statement Friday, Pompeo said he was "honored and humbled" to accept Trump's nomination. He called the decision to leave Congress difficult but said the "opportunity to lead the world's finest intelligence warriors" is a call to service that he could not ignore."

During the campaign, Trump suggested that he would push to change laws that prohibit waterboarding and other harsh techniques. He said that banning those methods puts the U.S. at a strategic disadvantage against Islamic State militants.

Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and the National Security Agency, said Friday he was "heartened" by Trump's decision to pick Pompeo. Hayden, a retired Air Force general, served in top intelligence positions under both Republican and Democratic presidents.

"I think this is a serious man who takes these questions seriously and who has studied these questions," Hayden said at a breakfast for reporters in Washington.

Pompeo, 52, was elected to Congress during the tea party wave of 2010. He served on the House Select Benghazi Committee to probe the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

The panel's final report this summer sharply criticized the Obama administration for a series of mistakes but produced no new evidence pointing to wrongdoing by Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time.

Pompeo and fellow Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio, however, issued a separate report slamming Clinton and the administration. Pompeo called the former first lady and senator "morally reprehensible."

He also has been a fierce critic of the nuclear deal with Iran that President Barack Obama has championed. The accord granted Tehran sanctions relief for rolling back its nuclear weapons program. Pompeo has said that Muslim leaders are "potentially complicit" in terrorist attacks if they do not denounce violence carried out in the name of Islam.

"They must cite the Quran as evidence that the murder of innocents is not permitted," he said in a 2013 House floor speech.

A member of the House intelligence committee, Pompeo denounced Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who stole and leaked highly classified documents to journalists, revealing the NSA's bulk collection of millions of Americans' phone records.

During an appearance on C-SPAN in February, Pompeo said Snowden should receive the death penalty for his actions.

"He should be brought back from Russia and given due process and I think the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence," Pompeo said.

Pompeo was born in Orange, California, and lives in Wichita, Kansas. He enrolled as a teenager at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and graduated first in his class in 1986. According to biographical information on his House web site, Pompeo served as a "cavalry officer patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall."

He is a graduate of Harvard Law School and was editor of the Harvard Law Review.

After college, he set up Thayer Aerospace and was its chief executive officer for more than 10 years. Later he was president of Sentry International, a company that sold equipment for oil fields and manufacturing.

He recently led a House Republican task force that found intelligence assessments approved by senior leaders at U.S. Central Command exaggerated the progress of anti-terrorism efforts they ran against IS militants.

House GOP leaders formed the task force after lawmakers learned that an unnamed analyst assigned to the command had filed a formal complaint alleging that intelligence about the Islamic State group had been manipulated. Pompeo said in a statement this week that no one has "yet been held responsible."

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee conducted their own inquiry, which found problems but no evidence that intelligence had been politicized. A spokesman for CENTCOM had declined to comment further because the task force and inspector general inquiries are still proceeding.

Pompeo has received more than $40,000 from the political action committee of Koch Industries, not including individual contributions from its employees, according to a review of federal campaign finance records. The firm is run by major political donors Charles and David Koch.

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