Pompeo's nomination faces stiff opposition from a handful of Republicans and many Democrats as well as supporters of the Iran nuclear deal, environmentalists and minority rights groups, and his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee appeared created to blunt their criticism.
Pompeo and Menendez had a contentious exchange to open the hearing.
To the dismay of some Democratic lawmakers, Pompeo equivocated when asked about climate change - acknowledging it is occurring but saying only that it's "likely" that humans are contributing to it.
Pompeo also refused to answer questions about the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections during the same hearing Thursday.
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Pompeo said he didn't precisely recall the discussion, but said the suggestion that Trump asked him to do anything improper "is false".
Pompeo, now Trump's CIA chief, tread carefully when confronted with several of the president's controversial and undiplomatic statements, focusing instead on his plans to rebuild a depleted agency and restore its influence.
"I'm with the president an very bad lot", Pompeo said.
He said he would not quit if Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the Russian Federation investigation, was sacked by Mr Trump.
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Pompeo was asked later whether he'd resign if Trump fired Mueller.
"I'm not going to talk about conversations the president and I had", Pompeo replied, adding that Trump should be able to have private conversations with his top aides.
"I think it's important as much as America has done for quite some time".
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