One of the most conservative senators in Congress, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), announced on Wednesday that he will oppose President Donald Trump’s nominees to take the reins at the State Department and CIA.
This dramatically complicates the White House’s efforts to fill two posts that are essential to conducting US foreign policy.
Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday and nominated CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who is extremely hawkish when it comes to foreign policy, to take over as the United States’ chief diplomat.
The president chose Gina Haspel, the CIA’s deputy director, to lead the country’s main intelligence agency after Pompeo moves to the State Department.
Paul said he opposes Haspel’s nomination because of her involvement in a secret CIA torture site in Thailand, where captured al Qaeda suspects were held and brutally interrogated.
Paul, a libertarian who holds more moderate positions on US foreign policy—policies that often buck the GOP mainstream—said,
My opposition to her is over her direct participation in interrogation and her gleeful enjoyment of someone being tortured.
Paul referred to quotes from Haspel in which she mocked a captured al Qaeda suspect as he was being waterboarded.
According to CNBC, Paul’s opposition to Haspel’s nomination raises the prospect that the White House may find it a struggle to gather the votes needed in the Senate to confirm her as the head of the CIA. If all 49 senators in the Democratic caucus vote against Haspel, Paul and another Republican voting “no” would block her from taking over the agency.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) also expressed misgivings about Haspel’s nomination. McCain, a former Navy airman who was captured and tortured by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, strongly opposed the torture of detainees who were captured by the United States in the wars launched after the September 11 attacks.
In a statement released Tuesday, McCain said,
The torture of detainees in US custody during the last decade was one of the darkest chapters in American history. Ms. Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process.
Meanwhile, Paul said he is concerned about Pompeo’s positions on foreign policy, particularly toward Iran. He said Pompeo’s hawkish policies contradicts Trump’s reluctance toward foreign interventions and regime change—at least, that’s what Trump said when he was on the campaign trail:
It perplexes me that he is now nominating someone for secretary of State who has advocated and pushed for regime change in Iran.
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