CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Thursday he is "confident" Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, and he contends that Moscow has been interfering in U.S. elections long before last year.
At the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, Pompeo was asked whether he supports the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
"Of course," he replied. "And the one before that, and the one before that."
Later in the question-and-answer session with New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, Pompeo was asked whether he was downplaying Russia's meddling in 2016 by also mentioning the Kremlin's behavior in previous years.
"I am confident that the Russians meddled in this election, as is the entire intelligence community," Pompeo said, appearing agitated at the skepticism towards his previous answer. "I hope I didn't stop at 2008 [for when he says Russian began interfering in U.S. elections]. You can go back to the 70s. My point was simply this: This threat is real. The U.S. government, including the Central Intelligence Agency, has to figure out a way to fight back against it and defeat it. And we're intent upon doing that."
Pompeo also defended the Trump administration's policy towards Russia, at a time when President Trump has been criticized for appearing too close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"If you watch this administration's actions with respect to Russia, it's no comparison with this administration compared to the previous one," Pompeo said.
The CIA director had harsh words for Russia's aggressive behavior in recent years.
"We live in a world where the Russians have a massive nuclear stockpile and are firmly entrenched in Syria," Pompeo said. "They have retaken Crimea [from Ukraine]. They love to stick it to America. They find anyplace they can to make our lives more difficult. America has an obligation to push back against that."
Despite Russia's actions, the Trump administration in its first six months has moved to work with Moscow on counterterrorism issues.
Asked to characterize America's current relationship with Russia, Pompeo said, "It's complicated." He said the U.S. will work alongside anyone to "get an outcome that's in the best interest of America."