Overnight Defense: Pompeo clears Senate panel, on track for confirmation | Retired officers oppose Haspel for CIA director | Iran, Syria on agenda for Macron visit

Overnight Defense: Pompeo clears Senate panel, on track for confirmation | Retired officers oppose Haspel for CIA director | Iran, Syria on agenda for Macron visit
© Greg Nash

Happy Monday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond.

 

THE TOPLINE: In a surprise, Secretary of State nominee Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump heads to New York to shore-up GOP districts Turkish president: US set deadline to release detained pastor Pompeo discusses new sanctions in call with Russian counterpart MORE cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Monday evening.

It looked like Pompeo would not be reported favorably out of the committee until just a few minutes before the panel met. Then, Republican Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRepublicans have spent .5 million at Trump properties since he took office: report Ex-Virginia GOP Senate candidate shares offensive voicemail allegedly left by Charlottesville rally organizer GOP leaders: No talk of inviting Russia delegation to Capitol MORE (Ky.) changed his mind.

With all committee Democrats opposed to Pompeo, Paul's opposition would have given Pompeo a negative recommendation.

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But just before 5 p.m. Monday, Paul said he received the assurances he was looking for to support Pompeo.

"After calling continuously for weeks for Director Pompeo to support President TrumpDonald John TrumpAl Gore: Trump has had 'less of an impact on environment so far than I feared' Trump claims tapes of him saying the 'n-word' don't exist Trump wanted to require staffers to get permission before writing books: report MORE's belief that the Iraq war was a mistake, and that it is time to leave Afghanistan, today I received confirmation the Director Pompeo agrees with @realDonaldTrump," Paul tweeted. 

 

Still some drama: Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonOvernight Defense: Questions mount over Trump's Iran tweet | House, Senate unveil compromise defense bill | Bill includes Russia sanctions waivers, limits on Turkey's access to F-35 | Endangered species measures dropped Senate confirms Trump's VA pick despite opposition from some Dems This week: House GOP heads for the exit MORE (R-Ga.) was absent Monday to deliver a eulogy for a friend. Senate rules say a majority of those present is needed to favorably report a nominee out of committee, meaning Pompeo would have been unfavorably reported by a 10-10 vote.

Noting the historic nature of unfavorably reporting a secretary of State nominee, committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerGOP leaders: No talk of inviting Russia delegation to Capitol Collins and Murkowski face recess pressure cooker on Supreme Court Tougher Russia sanctions face skepticism from Senate Republicans MORE (R-Tenn.) implored a Democrat to vote "present" instead or else said the committee would reconvene at 11 p.m. when Isakson returned.

Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsOn The Money: Senators propose 'crushing' Russia sanctions | Trump calls for food stamp work requirements in farm bill | China tells US to 'chill' on trade | Apple hits trillion in value Let’s honor public service Senate Dem: Talk of revoking security clearances a ‘pure distraction’ MORE (D-Del.), noting his opposition to Pompeo was already recorded and Isakson's emotionally difficult day, obliged and voted present to allow Pompeo to go to the Senate floor. 

 

What now: The drama over Pompeo's confirmation appears to have deflated.

In addition to Monday's committee vote, more centrist Democrats came out in support of Pompeo, giving him more than enough votes to pass the full Senate.

Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump’s big wall isn’t going anywhere — and the polls show why Senate Judiciary announces Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing Anti-abortion group launches ads against Manchin over Planned Parenthood MORE (D-W.Va.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyTrump’s big wall isn’t going anywhere — and the polls show why The Hill's Morning Report — Trump heads to New York to shore-up GOP districts Senate Judiciary announces Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing MORE (D-Ind.) said they would vote for Pompeo. They join Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump Cabinet officials head west | Zinke says California fires are not 'a debate about climate change' | Perry tours North Dakota coal mine | EPA chief meets industry leaders in Iowa to discuss ethanol mandate Trump’s big wall isn’t going anywhere — and the polls show why Senate Judiciary announces Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing MORE (D-N.D.), giving Pompeo at least three Democratic votes.

Even before Paul's flip, Pompeo only needed one Democrat to support him to be confirmed.

With Paul now a yes, the Democrats are icing.

 

Why it still matters: Even though Pompeo has the votes to be confirmed, he's set to receive an unusual number of no votes for a secretary of State.

For example, John KerryJohn Forbes KerryOvernight Defense: Trump signs 7B defense policy bill into law | Rips McCain hours after signing bill named after him | Green Beret killed in Afghanistan blast Trump rips McCain hours after signing bill named after him Kerry: 'Disgraceful' that Trump didn't mention McCain during defense bill signing MORE was confirmed 94–3, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: FBI fires Strzok after anti-Trump tweets | Trump signs defense bill with cyber war policy | Google under scrutiny over location data | Sinclair's troubles may just be beginning | Tech to ease health data access | Netflix CFO to step down Signs grow that Mueller is zeroing in on Roger Stone Omarosa claims president called Trump Jr. a 'f--- up' for releasing Trump Tower emails MORE by 94–2, Condoleezza Rice by 85–13 and Colin Powell by voice vote.

The opposition to Pompeo is indicative of the political divide in the United States. But, because he'll be the top diplomat, that vote could also send a signal to the world.

Trump administration officials and Republicans, though, have been dismissive of the idea that weak support for Pompeo sends a bad signal about American diplomacy.

"I think what it says to the world is what we've been saying for a long time, is the Senate has got some real problems and they need to figure out how to actually show up and do their job a little bit better," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday of the possibility Pompeo could have been voted against in committee.

 

ON TO THE NEXT ONE: With Pompeo now likely to win confirmation, attention will turn to President Trump's choice to replace Pompeo, Gina Haspel.

On Monday, 109 retired generals and admirals sent a letter to the Senate opposing Haspel's nomination. The letter was released by Human Rights First.

Signatories on the letter include former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Henry Hugh Shelton, former Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak and former U.S. Surgeon General Vice Adm. Richard Carmona.

"We do not accept efforts to excuse her actions relating to torture and other unlawful abuse of detainees by offering that she was 'just following orders,' or that shock from the 9/11 terrorist attacks should excuse illegal and unethical conduct," the retired officers wrote. 

 

Background: Opponents of Haspel are focused on her role in so-called enhanced interrogation techniques and the destruction of videotapes of harsh interrogations at a black site prison in Thailand.

Opponents argue she strongly advocated for the choice to destroy the tapes, while supporters say she did nothing illegal at the time.

Late last week, the CIA declassified a memo that said Haspel "acted appropriately" in carrying out orders to destroy videotapes.

"I have concluded that she acted appropriately in her role as Mr. Rodriguez's chief of staff, including in her efforts to press for and facilitate a resolution of the matter, as well as in her drafting of the cable that authorized the destruction of the tapes," then-CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell wrote in the memo. "She drafted the cable on the direct orders of Mr. Rodriguez; she did not release that cable. It was not her decision to destroy the tapes; it was Mr. Rodriguez's."

 

MACRON ARRIVES: French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in D.C. on Monday for the first official state visit of Trump's presidency.

A number of defense issues are on the agenda for Macron's three-day visit. In particular, Macron is trying to persuade Trump to stay in the Iran nuclear deal, as well as maintain a U.S. presence in Syria.

Ahead of the visit, Macron told Fox News that there is no alternative to the nuclear deal.

"I don't have any plan B," Macron told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday."

On Monday, Iran's foreign minister agreed.

"President Macron is correct in saying there's no 'Plan B' on JCPOA," Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter, using the acronym of the official name of the nuclear deal.

"European leaders should encourage President Trump not just to stay in the nuclear deal, but more importantly to begin implementing his part of the bargain in good faith."

Why it matters: Trump has given European allies a May 12 deadline to agree to a follow-on deal with changes or else he will essentially withdraw the United States from the nuclear accord.

Macron has developed a good rapport with Trump, so his visit is seen by some as the last best chance to convince Trump otherwise.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW:

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 9:30 a.m. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room G-50. https://bit.ly/2GdTEai

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Marines Commandant Gen. Robert Neller testify before the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee at 10 a.m. at Dirksen 192. https://bit.ly/2K8f6Qh

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for the nominees to be ambassador to Australia, deputy representative of the U.S. to the United Nations and U.S. representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency at 10 a.m. at Dirksen 419. https://bit.ly/2vGrTGu

 

ICYMI:

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