Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced Wednesday that he plans to “do everything I can to block” the confirmation of CIA Director Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and Gina Haspel as head of the CIA. Paul accused Haspel of showing “joyful glee at someone who is being tortured.”
President Donald Trump announced the nomination of Pompeo and Haspel in a tweet yesterday morning. That same tweet is reportedly how outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson discovered that he was fired.
The Senate currently has 51 Republicans — just enough to reach the simple majority needed to confirm a presidential nominee to either of these positions. A defection of one of these without the support of any Democratic senators would require a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence. Two GOP senators choosing to defect would prove fatal if Democrats remain united.
Paul, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, which will hold confirmation hearings on Pompeo, was also the only GOP senator to vote against confirming Pompeo to be CIA director.
Most of the concern coming from Paul, and other GOP senators, has been directed at Haspel. Haspel, the deputy director of the CIA, has been criticized for her stance on torture. After the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Haspel oversaw a CIA prison in Thailand where two suspected al Qaeda members were interrogated. Under orders, she later destroyed videotapes of the waterboarding of these prisoners.
In a statement released Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the torture of detainees in U.S. custody “one of the darkest chapters in American history.” He added, “Ms. Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process. I know the Senate will do its job in examining Ms. Haspel’s record as well as her beliefs about torture and her approach to current law.”
McCain experienced torture firsthand when he spent more than five years in a prisoner of war camp during the Vietnam War.
There have been reports that McCain will vote “no” on Pompeo’s and Haspel’s confirmations; however, when TheBlaze reached out to McCain’s office, they simply cited the senator’s previous statement and did not indicate how he would vote.
McCain has also been absent from the Senate for months due to treatment for brain cancer.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said that she had still not made a decision on how she would vote.
“I’d prefer to wait until we have a confirmation hearing before making a decision on her nomination,” Collins said. “She certainly has the expertise and the experience as a 30=year employee, but I’m sure that there will be some questions.”
Collins serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is tasked with reviewing Haspel.