A leading GOP hawk on Sunday praised Mike Pompeo’s nomination to lead the State Department, while Congress’s most libertarian-minded senator slammed it.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) called Pompeo a “highly qualified person” to be secretary of state and suggested that he is better aligned with President Trump’s views about world affairs and diplomacy than Rex Tillerson, the oil executive the president ousted with a tweet last week.
Pompeo is “close to the president,” Graham said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “He shares the president’s worldview that North Korea is a dangerous place, and I think he can do an outstanding job to the world explaining President Trump’s foreign policy.”
But Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) expressed disappointment at Trump’s nomination of Pompeo. Paul, who leans libertarian, said the president was undermining his expressed opposition to the Iraq War by nominating Pompeo, who holds more hawkish views of the conflict that hew to the GOP mainstream.
“He keeps appointing people around him who like the war with Iraq so much they’re eager to start a war with Iran next,” Paul said. Pompeo is too enthusiastic about regime changes around the world, the senator said.
Graham and Paul also had opposing takes on Gina Haspel, Trump’s nominee to replace Pompeo as head of the CIA. Haspel is linked to the torture of terrorism suspects in secret prisons in the years immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, although recent inaccurate reports that she engaged in the inappropriate waterboarding and torture of Abu Zubaida, an al-Qaeda suspect held at a “black site” prison in Thailand in 2002, have been retracted.
Graham dismissed concerns about Haspel’s role in the torture of detainees, saying he will be satisfied if she expresses during her confirmation hearings an understanding that waterboarding is no longer an authorized interrogation technique.
“I think for her to acknowledge that misbehavior is no longer allowed . . . she will have to adhere to the law as I believe it exists today, and that will be the test for me,” Graham said.
But Paul has vowed to throw wrenches in the way of his GOP colleagues as they undergo the process of confirming Pompeo and Haspel — and he doubled down on that promise, not excluding a filibuster option, although that ultimately wouldn’t be successful unless he gets enough lawmakers to join him.
“It’s just inconsistent with who we are as a people to have someone run our spy agency who is intimately involved with torture,” Paul said in reference to Haspel.