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

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada MORE's pick for secretary of State, current CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Trump identifies first soldier remains from North Korea | New cyber strategy lets US go on offense | Army chief downplays talk of 'Fort Trump' Pompeo backed continued US support in Yemen war over objections from staff: report Pompeo’s staff cracks down on ‘correct use of commas’ at State Dept 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."

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"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 ShaheenSome employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report Dems seek ways to block Trump support for Saudi-led coalition in Yemen Hillicon Valley: Trump signs off on sanctions for election meddlers | Russian hacker pleads guilty over botnet | Reddit bans QAnon forum | FCC delays review of T-Mobile, Sprint merger | EU approves controversial copyright law 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.