Senate Confirmation Fights Ahead on Trump's State, CIA Picks - NBC Bay Area
President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump

The latest news on President Donald Trump's presidency

Senate Confirmation Fights Ahead on Trump's State, CIA Picks

By tapping CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace Rex Tillerson, the White House is counting on a repeat of Senate support for the former Kansas congressman



    Tillerson Responds to Surprise White House Ouster

    Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addressed the State Department just hours after he was fired via Twitter by President Donald Trump. (Published Tuesday, March 13, 2018)

    Back in 2017, the Senate gave quick confirmation to President Donald Trump's national security team and his first secretary of state. But it's not likely to go as smoothly for Trump's new nominees to run State and the CIA.

    Senate Democrats — and some top Republicans — are slow-walking the process amid fresh questions over the Trump administration's stance toward Russia and revived inquiries into the CIA's dark history of torture.

    "There are a lot of unanswered questions," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

    Trump criticized Senate Democrats on Twitter Wednesday, writing, "Hundreds of good people, including very important Ambassadors and Judges, are being blocked and/or slow walked by the Democrats in the Senate. Many important positions in Government are unfilled because of this obstruction. Worst in U.S. history!"

    Shutdown, Russia Woes Grow for Trump

    [NATL] Shutdown, Russia Woes Grow for Trump

    President Trump lashed out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi amid the ongoing government shutdown and more troubling revelations about the 2016 election. NBC's Tracie Potts reports.

    (Published Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019)

    The president's firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson touched off a Senate confirmation battle that will play out this spring ahead of midterm elections when control of Congress hangs in balance.

    By tapping CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace Tillerson, the White House is counting on a repeat of Senate 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 when the GOP-led Congress was eager to put the new president's team in place and Democrats were unwilling to stand in the way. More than a dozen Democrats joined all but one Republican, GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, in backing him.

    In the year since, Pompeo has drawn scrutiny for actions and statements showcasing his loyalty to Trump and his approach toward Russia.

    Last month, Pompeo's meeting with two top Russian spy chiefs drew a chain of questions from Schumer in part because it occurred days before the Trump administration initially decided not to issue new sanctions over Russian interference in the election.

    Pompeo also made headlines for meeting with a former intelligence official who has floated the theory that Democratic National Committee's email hack was an inside job rather than Russian interference in the 2016 election as U.S. officials have largely concluded. That meeting was first reported by The Intercept.

    More Migrant Families Separated Than Initially Reported

    [NATL] More Migrant Families Separated Than Initially Reported

    Thousands more migrant families may have been separated than the government initially reported, a watchdog group said, possibly due to ongoing problems keeping track of children.

    (Published Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019)

    During one speech Pompeo claimed Russian meddling did not alter the election results, a finding that overstates the U.S. assessment of the interference.

    "I think he's going to have a tough time here," said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. "If he's being hired simply to more efficiently destroy the State Department, I think it would be hard to get Democratic votes."

    At the same time, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., made it clear he had plenty of questions regarding Trump's choice of Gina Haspel to heard the CIA over the "nature and extent" of her involvement in the agency's waterboarding of terror suspects.

    McCain has been among the GOP's most outspoken opponents of waterboarding and harsh interrogation techniques that Congress did away with in 2008 but Trump has said he would consider reviving.

    On Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul said he would oppose the nomination of Haspel, saying she has shown "gleeful enjoyment" at the torture of detainees. He also said he would actively oppose Pompeo's nomination over his position on waterboarding.

    As a career intelligence officer, Haspel oversaw a secret CIA prison in Thailand from 2003 to 2005 where top terror suspects were waterboarded, and she later helped carry out an order to destroy waterboarding videos. Although she now serves as CIA deputy director, Haspel has not previously had to undergo Senate confirmation.

    ICE Detains Marine Veteran

    [NATL] ICE Detains Marine Veteran, Says No Investigation

    Family members are furious that a U.S. citizen and military veteran ended up in an immigration detention center facing the threat of deportation. Jilmar Ramos-Gomez was born and raised in Grand Rapids. His mother says he served a tour in Afghanistan while in the U.S. Marine Corps.

    (Published Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019)

    "Ms. Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA's interrogation program," McCain said in a statement. "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."

    Republicans hope to approve Trump's nominees quickly, with the Foreign Relations Committee scheduling hearings next month for Pompeo and the Senate intelligence committee set to consider Haspel.

    "Both these nominations seem perfectly well-qualified," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday. "We hope they'll not be subjected to undue delay."

    Republican Sen. Pat Roberts acknowledged the confirmation battle could be different from last year when Pompeo — a fellow Kansan — asked for his advice about the job.

    "I said, 'Well, it'd be a good thing if I don't even see you or hear from you for a year or two," Roberts recalled.

    The senator expects Pompeo will do well at State because of his military and intelligence background — he was top of his class at West Point. "And, he'll be in sync with the president," Roberts said. "You don't want anybody in the position at odds with the president, as we have seen the last couple of weeks."

    Trump Discusses New US Missile Defense Strategy

    [NATL] Trump Discusses New US Missile Defense Strategy

    President Donald Trump discussed his plans for a revamped missile defense strategy during a speech at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, on Thursday.

    (Published Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019)