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Saturday 29 April 2017

CIA nominee Mike Pompeo backs intelligence report on election hacking by Russia

Mike Pompeo is Donald Trump's pick to run the CIA (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Mike Pompeo is Donald Trump's pick to run the CIA (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Donald Trump's pick to run the CIA has said he accepts the findings in an intelligence assessment that Russia interfered in the US election with the goal of helping the Republican win, even though the president-elect has been sceptical of some of the report's conclusions.

Mike Pompeo, a Kansas Republican congressman, said: "Everything I've seen suggests to me that the report has an analytical product that is sound.

His comments to Congress struck a different tone than those of his future boss, who called the focus on Russia and the election a "political witch-hunt" before he was even briefed on the findings.

On Wednesday, Mr Trump for the first time acknowledged that Russia was behind the computer hacking that targeted Democrats during the 2016 campaign.

As head of the CIA, Mr Pompeo would be responsible for bringing to Mr Trump intelligence assessments the president may find politically unappealing, including additional information on Russia's interference with the American democratic process.

Mr Pompeo promised senators on the intelligence committee that he would do so.

"My obligation as director of CIA is to tell every policy-maker the facts as best the intelligence agency has developed them," he said.

Mr Trump has been critical of the intelligence assessment that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other political sites, and that Moscow's aim was to get him elected.

This week, he said intelligence officials might be to blame for the leak of an addendum to the Russia assessment that was a summary of unverified claims that Moscow had obtained compromising allegations about the president-elect.

The top US intelligence official, James Clapper, said he did not think the disclosures came from intelligence agencies, and he added that he had told Mr Trump the US intelligence community "has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way".

Senator Angus King, a Maine independent, asked Mr Pompeo to comment on the "very serious allegations" about Mr Trump's ties with Russia.

"I share your view that these are unsubstantiated media reports," Mr Pompeo said, adding that he thought the leaks themselves were "intensely serious".

Mr Pompeo's was one of seven confirmation hearings held this week for senior posts in the upcoming Trump administration. Senators separately questioned Mr Pompeo about classified issues after the public hearing.

On other issues, Mr Pompeo said he will uphold the law and not direct the CIA to revert to using torture tactics to interrogate suspected terrorists.

He also said that while he has been critical of the Obama administration's deal with Iran on nuclear weapons, he would carry out the policy as it stands.

Mr Pompeo was a vocal member of the partisan House committee set up to investigate the deadly attack on a US diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, which occurred while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

He told the committee he understands that as CIA director, he will have to make the transition from a partisan, policy-making politician to an objective intelligence collector.

Adding a little drama to the hearing, the lights went out when the top Democrat on the committee mentioned Russia. The hearing was then moved to a different building.

AP

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