Trump’s Pick for CIA Watchdog Vows Independence From White House

Donald Trump’s pick for CIA inspector general pledged independence from the president and attorney general as senators pressed him on his willingness to speak truth to power during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

“I’ve got a 35-year career and, I think, built up a reputation,” nominee Peter Thomson told the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I’ve been a straight shooter and fair, following the law and not giving in to pressure. I’m not going to at all give that up at this stage of my life or for this position.”

Thomson, who spent more than two decades at the Justice Department, said that no one from the White House “ever gave me any kind of litmus test or a loyalty test to the president” and he pledged to come to the committee if he felt pressure from the administration to bury whistle-blower complaints or evidence of criminal conduct at the Central Intelligence Agency.

The nomination comes after Trump has increasingly taken more aggressive action against inspectors general he considers insufficiently loyal. He fired the State Department’s watchdog last month amid investigations into Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s alleged use of staff for personal services and a decision about Saudi arms sales.

Glenn Fine, the acting Pentagon inspector general who was set to lead a committee overseeing trillions in coronavirus relief spending, was ousted from that role in May and then resigned. Across the federal government, Trump has announced at least seven new inspectors general, taking particular aim at watchdogs appointed during the Obama administration.

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“If any pressure was brought on me by the White House I would consider that inappropriate,” Thomson said Wednesday. “I would notify the committee.”

Thomson, a partner at a Louisiana law firm, is also a former federal prosecutor who once worked on special assignment with the National Security Agency. The previous acting CIA watchdog, Christopher Sharpley, was nominated to the post by Trump but his nomination was not taken up by the Senate and he withdrew from consideration in 2018.

Thomson was pressed on whether he believed there was a “deep state” at work within the government seeking to undermine the president and whether he would come to the committee even if Barr disagreed with his findings in a matter.

Thomson said he wasn’t aware of the definition of the term “deep state” and said he was obligated under the law to inform the committee of any criminal conduct, no matter what determination the attorney general makes.

”I am not dissuaded or will not be dissuaded at all by any undue influence from any source,” he said.

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