MURPHY QUESTIONS POMPEO DURING SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE CONFIRMATION HEARING

Confirmation Hearing Video #1: Click here to view video of Murphy questioning Pompeo in the 1st round of questioning
Confirmation Hearing Video #2: Click here to view video of Murphy questioning Pompeo in the 2nd round of questioning

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released a statement on Friday after the confirmation hearing of Mike Pompeo to be Secretary of the U.S. Department of State.

“I appreciate Director Pompeo appearing before the committee today, but I am disappointed in his unwillingness to answer questions about the direction of the Trump administration’s foreign policy that he would be overseeing as Secretary of State. He refused to answer fairly basic questions about the authority used by the Trump administration to take military action and he would not offer even a meek condemnation of the president’s attacks on Director Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. I take seriously Director Pompeo’s commitment to restore both morale and capabilities to the State Department, but his record of enthusiastic support for military action as a substitute for diplomacy should be a cause for concern on both sides of the aisle. I’m going to think seriously about my vote on Pompeo’s nomination, but there was little in today’s hearing that addressed my existing concerns.”

Full text of Murphy’s exchanges with Pompeo during his confirmation hearing is below:

Highlights from first round of questioning (video available here):

MURPHY: “Senator Coons asked you in an earlier round whether you agreed with the president's characterization of the Mueller investigation as an attack on America, an attack on all we stand for. I don't understand why your participation in some of the elements of that investigation would render you unable to tell us that you don't believe the investigation is an attack on America or an attack on all we stand for. I don't think it compromises any of the work that the CIA did or does in that investigation.

“I think it's really – I think it would be really troubling if you couldn't say here today that you don’t believe that the Mueller investigation is an attack on America. So I want to give you a second chance at that.”

POMPEO: “Senator, give me a third chance? These are complex legal issues that special counsel is involved in. I have done my best as CIA director to separate each and every element of that. It is a minefield, Senator Murphy. I want to be on the far side of the line with making sure that I don’t create challenges for the special counsel’s office, for the two legislative committees that are engaged in this, and so, with all due respect, I just think there are things that relate to the special counsel’s, as…anyway—“

MURPHY: “By refusing to condemn attacks on the special counsel – I mean really, over-the-line attacks that aren't shared by Republicans here in Congress – you are frustrating the work of the special counsel because you’re associating yourself with some very poisonous political attacks.”

MURPHY: “In the time that I have remaining, I want to come back to the authorization question in Syria. You said you believe that the president has the authority to strike Syrian forces. What statutory authorization do you draw on to come to that conclusion?”

POMPEO: “Senator, I believe that the president has that authority. He certainly has it under Article II of the Constitution.”

MURPHY: “What’s the limiting factor, then, with respect to Article II powers if he can strike Syrian forces with no existing statutory authorization?”

POMPEO: “Senator, there are rings of law review articles written in answer to that very question. It’s a highly fact-based analysis. There are scores of attorneys strewn throughout the CIA, throughout the State Department, throughout the White House, throughout the Justice Department.”

MURPHY: “Well, just – but give me one limiting factor. 

POMPEO: “Senator, if you make a commitment – right. If you make a commitment that would be traditionally viewed as a classical case for war, then the Constitution so requires. This has been a tussle between the Executive and Legislative branch for an awfully long time, and you know my views. I think it was Senator Kaine who said that, coming from the place that you do on the Congressional side, I have deep respect for what it is that you all are looking for.”

MURPHY: “So normally, a limiting factor would be an imminent threat or an attack on the United States.”

POMPEO: “There is a very definition in the War Powers Act, right? So there’s a statutory definition that’s contained there as well. I can’t recite it…” 

MURPHY: “Well the War Powers refers to an attack on the United States. There’s been no attack on the United States from the Syria regime, correct?” 

POMPEO: “Senator, that's correct.

MURPHY: “And there's no imminent threat of attack on the United States from the Syrian regime?” 

POMPEO: “Senator, I'm just trying to be very careful. Yes, I think that's correct.  

MURPHY: “I'm at the end of my time but I might want to follow up on this. I don't think we're to the bottom of this question yet.” 

Highlights from second round of questioning (video available here):

MURPHY: “Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We are belaboring these questions of authorization, and I suspect you know why. Many of us have had misgivings about how the executive has expanded the ability to act unilaterally without Congressional authorization, both in this administration and in prior administrations. There are differences though – President Obama didn’t think he had the authority to launch missile strikes against Syria without Congressional authorization, this administration believes it does. But the concern spans both.

“So I’ll ask one last question on this subject. The rationale for U.S. military troops in Syria has been to fight ISIS and I think many of us support that even if we don’t believe the authorization exists. We believe in the mission. The administration has started to signal publicly that there is a follow-on mission for our existing presence, which is to combat the influence of Iran in the future settlement of accounts inside Syria. Do you believe that U.S. troop presence is necessary inside Syria to try to stem Iran’s influence, and if so, what is the legal basis for that activity?

POMPEO: “Senator, I will concur with you. While it’s complicated, the legal basis gets much more difficult. The clarity that I think we have today – it sounds like you may disagree about the clarity today. I think we’re coloring inside-the-line there. It becomes much more difficult.”

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