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Senators Ask Pompeo If He'll Stand Up To Trump

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Senators Ask Pompeo If He'll Stand Up To Trump
Mike Pompeo, the president's new pick to lead the State Department, was asked how he'd steer the president on foreign policy.
SHOW TRANSCRIPT

CIA Director and former House Republican Mike Pompeo returned to Congress to pitch himself as the next secretary of state. But Senate Democrats mostly wanted to talk about President Donald Trump.

Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat, said: "We must ask: Will you enable President Trump's worst instincts? ... Will you stand up to President Trump and say, 'No, you're wrong in that view, Mr. President,' or will you be a yes-man?"

On issues from Russia to Iran to Syria, Democrats tried to see how much daylight there is between Pompeo's views and the president's. Pompeo largely didn't take the bait.

Sen. Ben Cardin asked, "What is your view as to whether America should withdraw unilaterally from the Iran nuclear agreement?"

Pompeo responded: "Senator, I know clearly what my mission's going to be. The president's made very clear what the secretary of state's mission has been, and I expect no changes to that."

But Cardin pressed him further, saying: "I didn't ask that. I understand that. We've had nominees come before this committee and express their views and are doing very well in this administration who have disagreed with the president, and the president gets the last word. I understand that. I want to know your views."

Pompeo replied, "I've done it many times Senator; I can't answer that question."

Pompeo also faced pressure in the opposite direction from Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who urged him to stick close to the president's anti-interventionist instincts.

Paul told Pompeo, "My main concern is that, will you be one who listens to what the president actually wants instead of being someone who advocates for staying in Afghanistan, another Iraq war, bombing Syria without permission."

Unlike his predecessor, Pompeo has developed a reputation for having the president's ear, thanks to strong personal chemistry. Lawmakers were naturally keen to know how he'd use that relationship as secretary of state.

Paul's opposition could leave Pompeo relying on Democrats to get past the full Senate vote. He's managed to get bipartisan support in the Senate for his nomination to the CIA, but Democrats have struck a more skeptical tone this time around.

Still, given the current amount of turmoil in the world, the Senate probably won't want to leave the secretary of state spot vacant too much longer.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.