WASHINGTON – Back in 2017, the Senate gave a quick confirmation of President Donald Trump’s national security team and his first secretary of state. But it is not likely to go so smoothly for Trump’s new nominees for the execution of State and the CIA.
Democrats in the senate and a number of top Republicans — slow-walking the process amid fresh questions about the Trump administration of the attitude of Russia and a revived investigation into the CIA’s dark history of torture.
“There are many unanswered questions,” said the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N. Y.
The president’s firing of Secretary of state, Rex Tillerson became a Senate confirmation battle that will play this spring coming mid-term elections when control of Congress hangs in the balance.
By tapping CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace Tillerson, the White House is counting on a repetition of the Senate’s support for the former Kansas congressman confirmed last year to lead the clandestine agency.
But the political ground has shifted since the 66-32 vote to confirm Pompeo in January 2017, the GOP-led Congress was eager for the new president’s team and Democrats not to stand in the way. More than a dozen Democrats joined all but one Republican, GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, in support of him.
In the years since, Pompeo has drawn scrutiny for the actions and statements presentation of his loyalty to Trump and his approach in the direction of Russia.
Last month, Pompeo’s meeting with two top Russian spy heads pulled a chain of questions from Schumer, in part because it occurred days before the Trump of administration in the first instance, no issue of new sanctions over Russian interference in the election.
Pompeo also the headings for the encounter with a former intelligence official who floated the theory that the Democratic National Committee, the e-mail hack was an inside job, rather than the Russian interference in the 2016 election as the US. the officials are largely closed. That meeting was first reported by The Intercept.
During a speech Pompeo claimed the Russian intervention has no impact on the results of the election, a finding that exaggerates the U.S. assessment of the fault.
“I think that he has a difficult time here,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. “If he is hired just to be more efficient to destroy the State Department, I think that it would be difficult to be Democratic votes.”
At the same time, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., made it clear he had many questions for Trump’s choice of Gina Reel at the head of the CIA about the’ nature and extent ‘ of her involvement in the agency’s waterboarding of terror suspects.
McCain is among the GOP’s most outspoken opponents of waterboarding and harsh interrogation techniques that the Congress in 2008, but Trump has said that he would consider reviving.
In his career as an intelligence officer, Winder oversaw a secret CIA prison in Thailand from 2003 to 2005 where top terror suspects were waterboarded, and they later helped to carry out an order to destroy waterboarding videos. Although she now serves as deputy director of the CIA, Reel has not previously had to undergo Senate confirmation.
“Mrs. Reel must explain the nature and the extent of its involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program,” McCain said in a statement. “I know that the Senate will do its job in the research of Mrs. Reel record as well as her beliefs about torture and its approach of the current law.”
The republicans hope to approve Trump’s nominees quickly, with the Foreign Relations Committee plans hearings next month for Pompeo and the Senate intelligence committee is set to consider Reel.
“Both of these nominations seem quite well qualified,” Senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday. “We hope that they will not be exposed to unnecessary delay.”
Republican Sen. Pat Roberts acknowledged the confirmation battle may be different from that of the previous year, when Pompeo, a fellow Kansan — asked his advice about the job.
“I said,” Well, it would be a good thing if I can’t even see or hear from you for a year or two,” Roberts recalled.
The senator is expected Pompeo, will do well at State because of his military and intelligence background — he was the top of his class at West Point. “And he will be in sync with the president,” Roberts said. “You don’t want someone in the position at odds with the president, as we have seen in the last few weeks.”
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