Senator Rand Paul Vows to Block Both Mike Pompeo and Gina Haspel Nominations for Secretary of State and CIA Director

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.


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The Federal Government Shuts Down for Five Hours Then Reopens Overnight

The Federal Government shut down for five and a half ours overnight, then reopened as Congress got a sufficient number of votes in line to pass a massive spending bill that will keep the government funded.  The deal increases spending on domestic programs, as well as defense, making it appealing to just enough members on either side of the aisle to get it passed.  It does not, however, include any provisions on immigration.

Senator Rand Paul held a vote up in the Senate over the massive levels of spending in the bill.  The bill includes $300 billion in increased spending over the next two years including increases of $80 billion for defense and over $60 billion for domestic programs.  The deal also raised the debt limit so that it won’t be reached again until March 2019.  It also contained $90 billion in disaster relief for hurricanes and wildfires.

Paul wanted a vote on an amendment that would have kept Congress under strict budget caps, as well as removed the debt limit provision from the package.  Because the budget deal was filed late on Wednesday, consent from all 100 senators was needed to hold a vote before the deadline at midnight.  Any one senator could have held the vote up, and Paul did.

Paul pleaded with other Senators from the Senate Floor to rein runaway spending in.  “Your grandkids are being stuck with the bill! Mark my words, the stock market is jittery,” Paul said. “It’s worth a debate whether we should borrow a million dollars a minute.”

“I’m not advocating for shutting down the government. I’m also not advocating for keeping the damn thing open and borrowing a million dollars a minute,” Paul added subsequently during an interview.  “This is reckless spending that is out of control.”

Republican Leadership never granted Paul a vote on his amendment and shortly before 2 a.m., the budget bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 71-28.

Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi gave a marathon-8-hour speech on the House floor on Wednesday pleading with fellow Democrats to oppose the deal because it didn’t include a solution on DACA.  In the end though, enough Democrats broke ranks and voted for the bill to pass.  The House vote took place at about 5:30 a.m. this morning, and passed by a vote of 240-186.  Seventy-three House Democrats voted for the bill.

The bill now goes to President Trump’s desk where is the President is expected to sign it quickly in order to minimize any major disruptions to the operation of the federal government.


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Rand Paul has Gone from One of Donald Trump’s Biggest Critics to One of His Biggest Cheerleaders.  But Why?

Rand Paul was once one of Donald Trump’s biggest critics.  During the presidential campaign, he described the president as an “orange-faced windbag.”  He called Trump a “delusional narcissist,” and called his insults “pitiful” and said they the kind of insults one would hear in “junior high.”  Donald Trump, never one to back down from a fight, returned the insults.  “First of all, Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on the debate stage,” Trump once said during a debate.

But that is all ancient history now though as time after time over the past several months Rand Paul and Donald Trump have found themselves key allies on many issues.  After tweeting earlier this month that the U.S. should end foreign aid to Pakistan, Rand Paul tweeted that he “couldn’t agree more.”  A few days later he proposed a bill in the Senate to eliminate foreign aid to Pakistan.

Although Paul voted against most Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare last fall, he strongly supported the president’s decision to loosen some Obamacare regulations by executive order.  He actually worked with the president over a period of many months on getting the action done.  “President Trump is doing what I believe is the biggest free-market reform of healthcare in a generation.  I want to commend the president for having the boldness and foresight and leadership to get this done,” he said at the time.

But perhaps the biggest examples of the newly-formed alliance have come in recent days as the White House has been embroiled in a fierce immigration battle with members of Congress.  Paul said that he has been working with Democrats on a solution for DREAMers but has been turned down repeatedly by them.  But Trump, he said, “has changed the dynamic.”  And now any deal that includes a solution for DREAMers has to include significant provisions for border security.  He complimented the president for making that happen.

The president has been harshly criticized for incendiary language he used to describe certain countries from which immigrants come to the United States, recently.  He’s been called racist.  Once again, Paul came to his defense.  “You can’t have an immigration compromise if everybody’s out there calling the president a racist,” Paul recently said during an interview.

“All these crazy, over the top criticisms or accusations against the president don’t fit with the president that I know,” Paul said during another interview.  One of the nations criticized by Trump was the island nation of Haiti.  Paul challenged the notion that president has a negative view of Haiti by citing Donald Trump’s help in funding a medical mission Paul took to Haiti before Trump was president.

Paul has become one of the president’s biggest cheerleaders.  What’s behind it?  The Senator and President Trump see eye-to-eye on many issues, such as deregulation and the perils of foreign nation building.  But the reason for Paul’s affection for the president may also lie closer to home.

President Trump is immensely popular in Paul’s home state of Kentucky.  In the Appalachian Mountains region of the state, a region devastated by the collapse of the coal industry and a harsh opioid addiction epidemic, Trump is seen as a guy “riding up on a white horse.”  And if progress does not come to areas like this, voters there won’t blame Donald Trump, they will blame the “brick wall” in Washington.  Politicians who, they see, as doing everything they can to stop the Trump agenda from being implemented.

It is probably not lost on Paul that his fellow Kentucky Senator, Mitch McConnell, who has had very public disagreements with President Trump in the past, has an approval rating of 18% in his home state.  Paul probably understands better than most that Kentucky voters want to see Trump succeed.  Paul seems to have seen the dangers in crossing Trump and he’s decided that being a supporter of the president’s is a much safer track to follow.

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