Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump’s nominee for director of the CIA, said Thursday that he is “clear-eyed” about the Russian government’s “aggressive” campaign to hack Democrats’ emails during the presidential campaign.
Speaking at his Senate Select Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing, Pompeo gave perhaps the strongest endorsement of any Trump transition official yet of the U.S. intelligence community’s belief that Russia directed the hacking.
“It’s pretty clear about what took place here, about Russian involvement in efforts to hack information and to have an impact on American democracy,” Pompeo told California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
“I’m very clear-eyed about what that intelligence report says.”
“This was an aggressive action taken by the senior leadership inside of Russia,” Pompeo continued, adding that threats of future cyber attacks are “very real” and “growing.”
Pompeo, who was briefed with Trump last week on a classified report laying out evidence of Russian hacking, had not gone on the record on the issue prior to Thursday’s hearing. But his comments Thursday are likely to comfort Trump critics who have worried that he has been too dismissive of intelligence linking Russia’s intelligence agencies to the computer hacks.
Trump and company did start coming around to the intelligence community’s assessment after Friday’s classified briefing. Trump issued a statement acknowledging that Russia was likely involved in the hacks.
And at a press conference on Wednesday, the Republican said “I think it was Russia.”
One concern that Trump and his team have expressed about the Russia theory is that it is being used by political opponents to undermine his election victory. But Pompeo subtly addressed that issue by asserting that Russia’s aggressive hacking attempted to undermine American democracy rather than sway the election to Trump.
The intelligence report, a declassified version of which was made public, stated that president Vladimir Putin had evolving goals in conducting the hacking campaign. As election day neared, Russian officials waged a hacking and disinformation campaign with a goal of merely undermining what they believed would be a Hillary Clinton presidency.