Pompeo: 'Bad blood' with Moscow due to 'Russian bad behavior'

President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE's pick for secretary of State, current CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoCongress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN ambassador job The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight MORE, told senators on Thursday that the "historic conflict" between the U.S. and Russia is due to Moscow's "bad behavior" — contradicting Trump's assertion that the special counsel's probe is to blame.

Pompeo was asked directly whether he agreed with a recent tweet from Trump that "much of the bad blood with Russia is caused by the Fake & Corrupt Russia Investigation, headed up by the all Democrat loyalists, or people that worked for Obama."

ADVERTISEMENT

"The historic conflict between the U.S. and the USSR, and now Russia, is caused by Russian bad behavior," Pompeo told Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenCongress must step up to protect Medicare home health care Dems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants Bipartisan Senators reintroduce legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia MORE (D-N.H.).

Lawmakers repeatedly pressed Pompeo on how he would advise handling Russia if confirmed as secretary of State, including whether he would move to continue to implement sanctions passed by Congress in response to Moscow's meddling in the 2016 presidential race.

The Trump administration's handling of Moscow in the wake of the Kremlin's sweeping active measures campaign during the election has continued to face fierce scrutiny on Capitol Hill.

Trump has repeatedly spoken of the need for warmer relations with Russia — raising deep suspicions among critics who note that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE is actively investigating possible ties between his campaign and the Kremlin. 

The president's rhetoric on Russia has often struck a softer note than his own administration. 

"We want a positive relationship with the Russian government, but for this to happen, there must be a significant change in their behavior," press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a recent press conference about new, tougher sanctions on a slate of Russian oligarchs, government officials and allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Pompeo has also previously drawn scrutiny for making the inaccurate claim that the intelligence community had assessed that Russia had not affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential election — something that officials did not examine.

The CIA later corrected the assertion, but the incident led critics to accuse Pompeo of carrying water for Trump in his fight against the investigation now led by Mueller. 

Updated at 12:37 p.m.