Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has vowed to block the nominations of Mike Pompeo to be the next Secretary of State and Gina Haspel to be the next CIA Director he announced today. Pompeo is the current CIA Director and Haspel is the current Deputy CIA Director. Haspel has been with the Agency since 1985.
Pompeo is a former Congressman from Kansas and in the year that he has been CIA Director has managed to build a close relationship with the President, choosing to spend most of his time working from the White House instead of CIA headquarters in Langley.
“I respect the intellect. I respect the thought process. We have a very good relationship,” the President said of Pompeo yesterday before leaving for a trip to California. “For whatever reason, chemistry…why do people get along? I said from day one, I have gotten along well with Mike Pompeo. With Mike, we had a very good chemistry right from the beginning.”
The President pointed to the nuclear deal with Iran specifically. “When you look at the Iran Deal, I think it’s terrible. I guess he thought it was OK. I wanted to either break or do something, and he felt a lit bit differently. So we were not really thinking the same,” the President said of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whom he dismissed yesterday. “With Mike…we have a very similar thought process. I think it’s going to go very well,” he said.
The Iran Deal is one of the reasons Paul is concerned about the pick of Pompeo.
“What I liked about candidate Trump was his strong condemnation of the Iraq War. I believe President Trump has done a great job, and I continue to support him, but I cannot endorse his nomination of people who loved the Iraq War so much that they want an Iran War next. Director Pompeo has not learned the lessons of regime change and wants regime change in Iran,” Paul wrote in a statement.
“I can’t support people who never understood America First and want to manipulate the President into the sphere of the neocons who never met a war they didn’t want to star in,” he added.
Paul’s objections to Haspel’s nomination centers on the role she played in the CIA’s so-called “black sites, secret prisons in third-party countries, where prisoners were taken and allegedly tortured to get them to reveal information in the wake of 9/11 and during the early years of the Iraq War.
Haspel allegedly oversaw one site in Thailand in 2002 where a detainee was waterboarded in order to get information from him. The revelation was made in a subsequent investigation into enhanced interrogation techniques during the Bush administration. “It’s galling to read of her glee during the waterboarding,” Paul said. “It’s absolutely appalling.
“I find it just amazing that anyone would consider having this woman at the head of the CIA,” he added.
Haspel also allegedly helped destroy evidence of enhanced interrogations in the form of videotapes.
Whether Paul’s opposition would be enough to derail either nomination is an open question. Only 51 votes are needed for confirmation of executive branch appointees. Pompeo was confirmed as CIA Director with several votes from Democrats, so it is probable he will receive at least some of the same support.
Haspel’s fate is a little more uncertain. Republicans only control 51 seats in the Senate which means if Democrats are unified in their opposition she could only afford to lose one more Republican vote before seeing her nomination go down in defeat.