CIA Director Mike Popmeo, previously a congressman from California, was finally confirmed to his intelligence post Monday — but not without some controversy.
Originally, it was planned that Pompeo would be confirmed by the Senate by the time President Donald Trump took his oath of office Friday, or later that afternoon. Republicans noted that President Barack Obama had seven of his Cabinet members confirmed by the time he took office in 2009, and that it's standard practice to have key members of the U.S. national security team in place while the transition of power takes place.
However, when Trump was sworn in last week, Pompeo had not yet been confirmed. By Friday afternoon, only Gen. James Mattis and Gen. John Kelly, Trump's nominees for secretary of defense and secretary of homeland security, respectively, were confirmed.
The delay occurred because Senate Democrats, lead by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), failed to make good on their promise to include Pompeo in the small group of nominees who would be confirmed via a voice vote Friday afternoon, according to the Weekly Standard.
The magazine — cited six unnamed sources familiar with a confrontation between Schumer and Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton that took place on the Senate floor Friday — after Schumer broke his promise to confirm Pompeo with Trump's other top national security figures, and said he offered Republicans an "insulting excuse" for having done so.
It all began several days before when Republican leaders agreed to push back Pompeo's Senate hearing by one day because Democratic leaders said they had too many on their plate.
"Democrats asked that the hearing be moved so that six hearings did not occur on one day," a Democratic Senate aide told the Weekly Standard. "That many Cabinet hearings in a single day had only happened once in American history, and it was an unfair schedule to senators on both sides."
Republicans agreed to the request, and Pompeo's team reportedly welcomed the extra day to prepare, but Republicans had one condition: Pompeo must be confirmed on Inauguration Day with Mattis and Kelly.
More from the Weekly Standard:
But on January 19, one day before Trump's inauguration, [Oregon Democratic Sen.] Ron Wyden said he'd seek to delay Pompeo's confirmation when the Senate convened late Friday afternoon. That evening Cotton, who is close to Pompeo from their time together in the House of Representatives, began calling his colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee, including Wyden, seeking to avoid the delay. Some of the calls were cordial. Others were testy.
The Senate reconvened after the inaugural ceremonies on Friday, with Pompeo's nomination set to come up at 4:50pm. Cotton angrily confronted Schumer about his broken promise. According to witnesses, Schumer told Cotton to lower his voice and asked him move off of the Senate floor to an adjacent hallway for a private discussion. "We need to take this out into the hallway," Schumer said. Cotton walked with Schumer but loudly rejected his first request. "Don't tell me to lower my voice!" he shouted, with an additional salty admonition tacked on for emphasis. Burr and Cornyn were present, as was Senator Mark Warner, ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and several aides.
That's when Schumer told Cotton, who is an Army veteran, that if he would have been around eight years prior, then he would know that Republicans didn't confirm Obama's CIA director nominee by or on Inauguration Day 2009.
Cotton did not take too kindly to the slight, according to the Weekly Standard.
"Eight years ago, I was getting my ass shot at in Afghanistan," Cotton reportedly barked in reply. "So don't talk to me about where I was 8 years ago."
Then, according to the Weekly Standard, Schumer claimed that it wasn't his fault that other Democrats were trying to stall Pompeo's confirmation.
"That's when [Schumer] started dissembling and said: 'I don't control my whole caucus.' Either he'd lost control or he was trying to make excuses for an outcome he wanted," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told the Weekly Standard.
And because of the incident, top Republicans have reportedly said they now know not to trust Democratic leaders in the Senate.
"I won't make that mistake again," Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) reportedly said afterward.
While Senate aides confirmed the version of events to the Weekly Standard, as did Cotton himself, a top Democratic aide told the publication that there had never been a deal to confirm Pompeo on Inauguration Day.
Despite the incident, Pompeo was confirmed on Monday and later sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence.