Pompeo: US airstrikes in February killed 'a couple hundred Russians'

Mike Pompeo director of the Central Intelligence Agency and secretary of state nominee smiles during a meeting with Sen. Bob Corker R-Tenn. on Capitol Hill in Washington

In Mike Pompeo's view, the president can do what he wants.

In a letter sent Thursday, Menendez asks Mueller whether Pompeo was forbidden from answering questions about what was discussed in the interview.

As for the prospect of leading the State Department, Pompeo pledged to make the department as central to national security decisions as the intelligence agency he now heads. He lamented the "demoralizing" vacancies at the top echelons of the department during Tillerson's brief tenure and said he planned to fill those vacancies.

"I just need to look at that and frankly turn to the professionals at the State Department to give me guidance", he added.

"Frankly, both the administrations, every administration, Republican and Democrat alike, we provide arms sales necessary, consistent with that "one China" policy", Pompeo said, in response to questions from Republican US Senator Cory Gardner during a confirmation hearing of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Booker moved on to asking about Pompeo's comments that Muslim Americans have a "special obligation" to speak out about suspicious activity, and if they don't are "complicit" in terrorism. Pompeo defended his record, promising he will treat people of all faiths "with the dignity and respect that they deserve".

"I don't know the answer to that".

He sought to pre-empt concerns about Trump's apparent unwillingness to challenge Russian President Vladimir Putin directly. He pointed out that the US has been instrumental in ridding the region of ISIS.

An avowed opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, Pompeo said he'd work immediately if confirmed to "fix" the agreement that Trump has threatened to abandon if it's not strengthened. Still, he affirmed that he won't support staying in over the long term unless more restrictions are placed on Tehran.

But on Thursday, he strove to emphasize that he would work to "fix" the deal with skeptical European allies by a May 12 deadline.

President Trump nominated Pompeo to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.

He also emphasized that a USA attack on Syria in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack on rebels near Damascus can come at any time.

President Donald Trump's pick to become Washington's top diplomat pledged Thursday to work with U.S. allies to strengthen the Iran deal and played down fears he is bent on regime change in North Korea.

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