Pompeo wouldn't resign if Trump fired Mueller

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Latest on Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo's confirmation hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (all times local):

12:05 p.m.

Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo says he's confident he wouldn't resign if President Donald Trump moved to halt or interfere in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday that he hasn't given the matter any thought. But he said he is sure he would follow the lead of previous secretaries of state who "stayed the course" during great domestic political turmoil.

He appeared to be referring to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who remained in his job after President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 over the Watergate scandal.

Pompeo was asked if he would resign specifically if Trump fired special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation, or Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein to whom Mueller reports.

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11:55 a.m.

Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo is refusing to answer questions about the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.

Asked whether he agrees with President Donald Trump that the probe is a "witch hunt," Pompeo declined to offer his opinion.

He also told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he is in no position to know whether it would be legal for Trump to fire any of those overseeing the investigation.

Pompeo did say he believes Russia had interfered in the 2016 election. And he contradicted a Thursday morning tweet from Trump that blamed the investigation for bad relations between the U.S. and Russia. Pompeo says bad behavior by Russia is responsible for the poor relationship.

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11:50 a.m.

Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo is defending the Trump administration and its efforts to push back against Russia.

Pompeo is answering questions at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He says the list of actions the administration has taken is "long."

But Pompeo also says that Russian President Vladimir Putin has not yet "received the message sufficiently" about troubling behavior by Moscow. Pompeo suggests the U.S. needs to impose more sanctions on Russia.

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11:35 a.m.

The current CIA Director Mike Pompeo says he has never advocated for regime change in North Korea.

Pompeo was speaking Thursday at his Senate confirmation hearing to become the top U.S. diplomat.

He says the administration has responsibility to prevent North Korean leader Kim Jong Un being able threaten the U.S. with a nuclear weapon.

But he says he's not advocating regime change. He says his role as a diplomat is to avoid a confrontation.

After a year of escalating tensions over North Korea's progress in its weapons development, President Donald Trump has pivoted to diplomacy and plans to meet Kim in May or early June.

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11:25 a.m.

Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo says that bolstering the Iran nuclear deal will be a priority if he's confirmed by the Senate.

There is one month to go until a May 12 deadline that President Donald Trump set to either address what he calls flaws in the 2015 agreement, or withdraw from it. Pompeo said Thursday that fixing the deal is in America's best interest.

Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that if the deal can't be fixed and Trump withdraws, he will still advocate for a tougher accord.

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11:10 a.m.

Secretary of State designee Mike Pompeo is telling lawmakers that if confirmed he will restore the State Department as the country's pre-eminent foreign policy agency and fill positions left vacant under Rex Tillerson.

The current director of the CIA told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that under his leadership, the department will be central to U.S. policy. Pompeo said he would use his close relationship to President Donald Trump to ensure that America's diplomats are heard and respected inside the administration.

The State Department had suffered from dismal morale under Tillerson, whom Trump fired last month. Tillerson had endorsed massive budget cuts proposed by the administration and left numerous senior positions vacant.

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11:00

Secretary of State designee Mike Pompeo is confirming that he was interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation.

Pompeo is answering questions at his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday. He says Mueller's team requested an interview and "I cooperated."

But Pompeo won't say what he spoke about with Mueller's team. He says he's cooperated with multiple investigations in the past and believes that when investigations are ongoing, it's best not to talk about it.

Pompeo also won't say whether Mueller's team asked him not to speak publicly about the contents of the interview.

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10:50 a.m.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is observing Mike Pompeo's confirmation hearing to be secretary of state.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker pointed out Haley's presence to the committee as the hearing got underway Thursday.

Haley is based in New York. Her presence signals a show of support for the man designated to replace former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Haley and Tillerson famously clashed throughout their overlap. Haley became one of the Trump administration's most prominent foreign policy voices while Tillerson mostly kept out of the spotlight. His aides often complained privately that Haley was "freelancing" on foreign policy.

The U.N. ambassador works under State Department direction but has some independent clout because it is a Cabinet-level position.

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10:25 a.m.

Protesters are interrupting the start of current CIA Director Mike Pompeo's hearing in the Senate to be the next secretary of state.

The protesters chanted "No Pompeo" and "No more war." One interrupted Republican Sen. Pat Roberts' opening statement.

The protesters appear to be associated with the Code Pink movement. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker is warning there may be arrests if protesters are disruptive.

The interruptions come as Pompeo's hearing to be top diplomat gets underway. Senators are expected to question him for many hours throughout the day.

Just before the hearing, President Donald Trump wished Pompeo good luck on Twitter. Trump says: "He will be a great Secretary of State!"

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12:20 a.m.

President Donald Trump's pick to be secretary of state is declaring that years of soft U.S. policy toward Russia are over and vowing to promote democracy and human rights while ending "demoralizing" vacancies at the State Department.

Mike Pompeo is set to appear Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Now serving as Trump's CIA director, the former Kansas congressman has been nominated to replace Rex Tillerson as America's top diplomat.

In prepared remarks for his Senate confirmation, Pompeo chastises Russia for acting "aggressively" and emphasizes that the Trump administration considers Russia "a danger to our country." But he also says that diplomatic efforts with Moscow, while challenging, "must continue."

Pompeo also stresses America's "duty to lead," despite Trump's own vows to put "America first."

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