Senate Democrats bombarded Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo with an array of questions Thursday, ranging from his views on same-sex marriage and climate change to which circumstances would cause him to resign.
President Donald Trump selected Pompeo, currently the CIA director, to replace former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Pompeo fielded questions from both Republican and Democratic committee members on a wide variety of topics.
Although many questions were focused on pressing international topics such as the conflict in Syria, the Iran nuclear deal, and Russian election meddling, among others, there were also some Democratic queries that seemed … out of place.
Here’s a roundup of five of the dumbest statements and questions that Democratic senators asked Pompeo during his hearing:
1.) Does Pompeo’s opposition to the Paris agreement on climate change disqualify him for service? Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) frowned upon Trump’s June 2017 announcement that he intended to withdraw from the climate change agreement. Trump said his decision stemmed from his commitment to protecting U.S. workers and industries while maintaining national sovereignty.
“I share the president’s position precisely, which is that the Paris agreement’s put an undue burden on the United States of America and that we should work to find a place where that is not the case. And when that moment arrives, we will be part of that discussion and re-enter that agreement,” Pompeo told Cardin.
But Cardin pressed further, asking Pompeo if he could “see the challenge” that his opposition apparently posed to his ability to serve as secretary of state. Cardin said that such opposition would inhibit Pompeo’s ability to serve as the United States’ “top diplomat.”
“Where your job is to work with the international community, our friends and foes alike to try to get diplomacy to work, and yet the United States would be the only country saying we don’t want to talk to you about climate under the arrangements that every other country is dealing with,” Cardin said. “You don’t see a conflict with that position, and trying to be the top diplomat of America, the leader of the world?”
Pompeo replied, “Senator, there are many times that we work with our allies and there are many other times when we just don’t see it the same way. I [can] give you many indications, many — many examples of where this administration has worked with those same allies.”
“So there will be places that our allies come alongside us and others that they don’t, and my task as the chief diplomat will be to get America’s position well known and to rally the world to the causes that benefit America,” Pompeo said. “I look forward to doing that if I’m confirmed as well, senator.”
2.) Will Pompeo resign if Trump fires special counsel Robert Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein? Although Pompeo hasn’t even been confirmed yet, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) tried to discern whether Pompeo “understands our values” and “is willing to fight for them even by taking dramatic steps like a resignation in order to signal vigorous disapproval of what the president has done or might do.”
Coons, in particular, wanted to know if Pompeo believed the departure of either Mueller or Rosenstein would spur him to “resign your post as secretary of state in order to demonstrate that we are a nation of laws, not of men.”
Pompeo replied, “My instincts tell me no. My instincts tell me that my obligation is to continue to serve as America’s senior diplomat would be more important at increased times of political and domestic turmoil.”
He also noted that “We’ve seen this in America before, right? This wouldn’t be the first time that there’s been enormous political turmoil. My recollection of history is that previous secretaries of state stayed the course.”
3.) Doesn’t Pompeo’s opposition to same-sex marriage fail to represent “the values of our nation”? Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) does not approve of Pompeo’s personal belief that same-sex marriage does not adhere to biblical morality and practices.
“Is being gay a perversion?” Booker bluntly asked Pompeo, pointing to some of his previously spoken opinions outlining his opposition to same-sex marriage. Pompeo replied, “I continue to hold that view.”
Booker pressed on, asking, “You believe that gay sex is a perversion? Yes or no?”
Pompeo replied that his “respect for every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation, is the same.”
But Booker remained worried that Pompeo, as secretary of state during “a time that we have an increase in hate speech and hate actions,” would “be representing this country and their values abroad” while holding his certain set of convictions.
“Your views do matter,” Booker said, adding, “I do not necessarily concur” that Pompeo is best representing “the values of our nation” when “you believe that there are people in our country that are perverse.”
4.) Is valuing diversity of religion “something negative in our country”? Booker pressed Pompeo on his previous comments critical of radical Islamic terrorism, saying, “Do you have any views that the Muslim faith or people who [are] even worshipping quote unquote other gods — is that just something negative in our country?” Booker asked.
“No, senator,” Pompeo replied. “I have worked closely with Muslim leaders, with Muslim countries. The CIA has saved countless — thousands — of Muslim lives during my 15 months. This is at the core of who I am, Sen. Booker. And I promise you that I will treat persons of each faith or no faith with the dignity and respect that they deserve.”
5.) Because of Pompeo’s views on religion, haven’t an increasing number of concerns been raised? Pompeo had to fact-check Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) when she decried the “increasing complaints” raised regarding Pompeo during his tenure as CIA director.
“Well, I would just say Michael Weinstein, who is a former Air Force officer who founded the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, says that he has been seeing increasing complaints from those inside the intelligence community under your leadership,” Shaheen said. “I think there have been a number of concerns raised.”
Pompeo corrected Shaheen, saying, “The number of — we call them ‘no-fear complaints’ — the statutory requirement decreased from 2016 to 2017 by 40 percent,” Pompeo said.
“Good,” Shaheen replied.
Pompeo continued, “And I’m proud of that. It’s not enough. Whatever the final tally was was too many, but I’m proud of the record. Not just — I don’t want to take full credit for that, the work that my team has done on this I’m incredibly proud of, I supported their efforts and I will behave the same way if I’m confirmed as the secretary of state.”