WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, last night sent a letter to Special Counsel Robert Mueller after Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo refused on Thursday to answer any questions about what he discussed with the Special Counsel and whether the President asked him to interfere with then FBI Director Comey’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia.
In his responses to Senator Menendez, Pompeo publicly confirmed for the first time that he had been interviewed by Special Counsel Mueller. However, after being repeatedly pressed to explain, Director Pompeo at first refused to answer and then said he could not recall any questions about whether President Trump discussed the FBI Russia's investigation with him. Pompeo also declined to provide any details regarding his interview with Mueller’s team or if the Special Counsel had directed him not to speak about their conversation.
“When I asked [Director Pompeo] whether you had instructed him not to speak about his conversation with you, he replied that he would not speak about the conversation while the investigation is ongoing,” wrote Menendez. “I would like to know whether there is any prohibition on Director Pompeo answering my questions. As Director Pompeo’s nomination process is moving on a short timeline, I would greatly appreciate a reply by Friday, April 13, 2018.”
Below is the video and excerpt from Senator Menendez’s exchange with Director Pompeo that prompted the letter to Special Counsel Mueller.
MENENDEZ: So, Director, this account strongly suggests that the president asked you and Director Coats to interfere with then, FBI Director Comey's, investigations into the Trump campaigns contacts with Russian. Did president -- what did President Trump say to you and Director Coats in that meeting?
POMPEO: Senator, I'm not going to talk about the conversations the president and I had. I think -- I think it's in this setting appropriate for a president to have an opportunity to talk with his senior leaders. I'll do that throughout the day but I will tell you think, the article's suggestion that he attend -- he asked me to do anything that was improper if false.
MENENDEZ: Did he ask you to do anything as it related to that investigation?
POMPEO: Senator, I don't recall -- I don't recall what he asked me that day, precisely, but I have to tell you I'm with the president an awful lot, he has never asked me to do anything that I'd consider remotely improper.
MENENDEZ: Well, you have spoken to Special Counsel Mueller?
POMPEO: Yes, that's correct.
MENENDEZ: And, what was the subject of the conversation?
POMPEO: Senator, I'm not going to speak to that.
MENENDEZ: Did the Special Counsel tell you not to speak about these things?
POMPEO: Senator, I have cooperated with multiple investigations while the investigation continues. I think that's the appropriate way to approach it and you should know and no one here today should take away any because of the fact that I don't want to speak about it there should be no negative inferences with respect to anything or for that matter positive inferences about the fact that I think it's most appropriate that while these investigations continue I not speak to the conversations I've had with the various investigative bodies.
MENENDEZ: I'm sure that if I asked Special Counsel Mueller a simple question whether you were told you couldn't [speak about your conversation with him], I don't think he would say you couldn't. So it's your choice that you're not seeking to do so. And for me, these questions being answered truthfully in a forthcoming way are critically important because it goes to the very essence of how you approach one of the most critical issues that we have. And your unwillingness to speak to it is troubling to me.