Pompeo Says He Talked to Mueller as Part of Russia Investigation

(Bloomberg) -- CIA Director Mike Pompeo, President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, said he has spoken with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“He requested an interview. I cooperated,” Pompeo said Thursday during his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing in response to a question from Robert Menendez, the panel’s top Democrat. “I cooperated with multiple investigations. While the investigation continues I think that’s the best way to approach it.”

Pompeo and Menendez had a contentious exchange to open the hearing. Citing a news article, Menendez asked Pompeo about a meeting at the White House last year when the president asked the CIA director and Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, to remain behind to speak with him. Menendez said the account “strongly suggests” that Trump had asked Pompeo to interfere with then-FBI Director James Comey’s investigation into Russian election meddling. Trump fired Comey less than two months later.

“I’m not going to talk about conversations the president and I had,” Pompeo replied, adding that Trump should be able to have private conversations with his top aides.

Pompeo said he didn’t precisely recall the discussion, but said the suggestion that Trump asked him to do anything improper “is false.”

“I’m with the president an awful lot,” Pompeo said. “He has never asked me to do anything that I consider remotely improper.”

In declining to discuss his conversations with the president, Pompeo clarified that he wasn’t asserting executive privilege. When Menendez continued to press on whether Trump had discussed the Russia probes with him, Pompeo answered: “I spoke with Special Counsel Mueller.”

Pompeo was asked later whether he’d resign if Trump fired Mueller.

“I haven’t given that question any thought. My instincts tell me no,” he replied, adding that the obligation to serve is “more important at increased time of political domestic turmoil.”

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