Posted but not written by Lou Sheehan
WASHINGTON — Representative Mike Pompeo was once pointedly asked why his committee’s inquiry into the 2012 attacks on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, had dragged on longer than the Watergate investigation. He did not flinch.
“This is worse, in some ways,” he said, during an appearance on “Meet the Press” in late 2015.
A sharp, pugnacious Kansas congressman and former Army tank officer with degrees from West Point and Harvard, Mr. Pompeo was often an unyielding critic of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — accusing her of orchestrating a wide-ranging cover-up of the Benghazi attacks.
If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Pompeo would become one of the most overtly partisan figures to take over the C.I.A. — a spy agency that, at least publicly, is supposed to operate above politics and avoid a direct role in policy making.
At the same time, the C.I.A. has been central to America’s secret wars waged in the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, giving the agency a shadow role in the counterterrorism policy of the past two presidents.
As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Pompeo (pronounced Pom-PAY-oh) has used his platform to denounce efforts in recent years to rein in some of the most polarizing counterterrorism programs of the post-Sept. 11 era.
He has advocated a return to the bulk collection of Americans’ domestic calling records — which Congress restricted though legislation last year — and he has denounced President Obama’s decision in 2009 to close C.I.A. black-site prisons and also to require government interrogators to strictly adhere to the rules of the Army Field Manual.
After a visit to the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in 2013, he told a congressional committee that a hunger strike by detainees was a “political stunt.”
On Friday, some lawmakers — even Democrats — complimented Mr. Pompeo’s work ethic and grasp of policy details. Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, praised Mr. Pompeo as “bright and hard-working.”
“While we have had our share of strong differences — principally on the politicization of the tragedy in Benghazi — I know that he is someone who is willing to listen and engage, both key qualities in a C.I.A. director,” Mr. Schiff said.
It appears that Mr. Pompeo’s role in the Benghazi inquiry was a significant factor in Mr. Trump’s decision to select him to lead the C.I.A. Some members of the president-elect’s transition team viewed a competing candidate for the position, former Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, as “soft” on Benghazi because Mr. Rogers, as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, oversaw a report that they believed was not tough enough on Mrs. Clinton.
By contrast, Mr. Pompeo’s relentless questioning of Mrs. Clinton during her October 2015 appearance before the House Select Committee on Benghazi raised his profile in Republican circles. When the committee concluded its work this year, Mr. Pompeo’s position on Mrs. Clinton’s role was an outlier even from most of his Republican colleagues.
The select committee found no new evidence of wrongdoing by the Obama administration or Mrs. Clinton, but Mr. Pompeo and another Republican member of the committee, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, said they were convinced that there had been a cover-up. When the committee released its findings in June, Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Jordan filed a 48-page addendum that said the attacks showed the State Department was “seemingly more concerned with politics and Secretary Clinton’s legacy than with protecting its people in Benghazi.”
After graduating first in his class at West Point, Mr. Pompeo served as an armored Cavalry officer and was deployed in Germany during the final years of the Cold War. After leaving the Army, he attended Harvard Law School and was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.
He arrived in Congress in 2011, after a sometimes bitter campaign against Raj Goyle, a Democratic state representative. During the campaign, one of Mr. Pompeo’s aides promoted an article on Twitter that referred to Mr. Goyle, an Indian-American, as a “Turban Topper.”
In an interview Friday, Mr. Goyle said that Mr. Pompeo personally apologized to him for the incident, but that the campaign staff member was never fired.
“As we are entering an era where relations with Muslim and minority communities in America are extremely sensitive, his record and his approach should be scrutinized during the confirmation hearing,” Mr. Goyle said.
Mr. Pompeo has close ties to Charles G. and David H. Koch, the billionaire conservatives who are among the most significant activists in financing Republican candidates nationwide. Their company, Koch Industries, and its employees have contributed $357,000 to Mr. Pompeo since 2009.
He has common cause with many senior Republican lawmakers on a range of issues, including a distaste for the agreement the United States and five world powers struck with Iran in 2015 to significantly limit Tehran’s nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions.
In an op-ed this summer on the Fox News website, Mr. Pompeo wrote that the United States should “walk away from this deal.”
Indeed, some members of the transition team pushed for Mr. Pompeo because they believe that picking an incumbent lawmaker would help foster better relations between Congress and the intelligence agencies. Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and now the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement Friday that Mr. Pompeo “will undoubtedly develop a close working relationship with Congress in his new post.”
But some Senate Democrats indicated that Mr. Pompeo could face a difficult confirmation hearing, citing some of his past comments, particularly his praise for the C.I.A.’s former detention and interrogation program.
That program “was ineffective, it was brutal and it stands in direct violation of American values,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said in a statement. “We can never return to that dark time.”
Ms. Feinstein, a member of the Intelligence Committee, led an investigation into the C.I.A.’s program that produced a voluminous report — most of which remains classified.
In her statement, she said she planned “to speak with Congressman Pompeo about this issue during his confirmation process.”