Outgoing CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who is looking to move laterally into the position of Secretary of State, ran into a rough patch on Thursday morning when a Democratic senator pressed him on what President Donald Trump asked of him in a private meeting that preceded the firing of FBI Director James Comey.
Addressing Pompeo, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) brought up special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Trump's presidential campaign, leading Pompeo, seeking to head up the State Department, to shut down when it came to talk about conversations with the president.
"The Washington Post" reported last year that you and the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats attended a briefing at the White House," Menendez read. "As the briefing was wrapping up, Trump asked everyone to leave the room except for Coats and CIA Director Pompeo. The president started complaining about the FBI investigation and Comey's handling of it."
"This strongly suggests the president asked you and Coats to interfere with director Comey's investigations into the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia," the Democratic senator pressed. "Did President Trump -- what did President Trump say to you and Director Coats in that meeting?"
"Senator, I am not going to talk about the conversations with the president I had," Pompeo offered. "I think it is in this setting, it was appropriate for a president to have an opportunity to talk with his senior leaders. I do that throughout the day. The article suggesting that he asked me to do anything that was improper is false."
"Did he ask you to do anything as it relates to that investigation?" Menendez shot back.
"I don't recall," Pompeo replied. "I don't recall what he asked me that day precisely. But I have to tell you, he never asked me to do anything that I considered remotely improper."
'When you say you're not going to talk about that conversation, you're not asserting executive privilege, are you?" Menendez pushed.
"Senator, I believe -- i think you'll agree, we'll talk about foreign policy issues," Pompeo deflected.
"This has a connotation of foreign policy because this is about Russia," the New Jersey Democrat lectured. "And so, at end of the day, understanding how you responded, what you will do as we're looking at mandatory sanctions that the administration has yet to impose, looking at how we're going to deal with a Russia, that not only sought to affect our last elections, but is doing so even as we speak both here and at home and across the world, those are substantive questions."
"It is a question of understanding what you're asked, how you responded, and what you did," Menedez pronounced.
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