WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump has offered the CIA director job to Mike Pompeo, a hard-line Republican congressman from Kansas who heavily criticized the Iran deal, blasted Hillary Clinton over the attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya and believes Edward Snowden is a traitor.
Before starting the job, Pompeo would have to be confirmed by the Senate. One issue that could dominate a confirmation hearing is Pompeo’s views on using harsh interrogation techniques on detainees. Trump has backed these techniques, saying: “We should go tougher than waterboarding,” which simulates drowning.
During the campaign, Trump suggested that he would push to change laws that prohibit waterboarding and other harsh techniques, saying that banning them puts the U.S. at a strategic disadvantage against Islamic State militants.
Pompeo, 52, was elected to Congress during the tea party wave of 2010. He was appointed to 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 Obama administration. Pompeo told reporters that the former first lady and senator was “morally reprehensible.”
He also has been a fierce critic of Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, which granted Tehran sanctions relief for rolling back its nuclear weapons program. And he has said that Muslim leaders are “potentially complicit” in terrorist attacks if they do not denounce those made in the name of Islam.
“They must cite the Koran 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 for having put friends of mine, friends of yours who serve in the military today at enormous risk because of the information he stole and then released to foreign powers,” Pompeo said then.
Despite their opposing views on many issues, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, congratulated Pompeo.
“Mike is very bright and hard-working and will devote himself to helping the agency develop the best possible intelligence for policy makers,” Schiff said. “While we have had our share of strong differences — principally on the politicization of the tragedy in Benghazi — I know that he is someone who is willing to listen and engage, both key qualities in a CIA director.”
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, N.Y. 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.
He initially supported Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., for the Republican nomination for president, but then promoted Trump’s bid for the White House.
Associated Press writers Jack Gillum and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.