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 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines – First lady makes surprise visit to migrant children at border The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Trump caves under immense pressure — what now? Mattis 'not aware' of North Korea taking any steps to denuclearize 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 PaulGOP senators call for probe of federal grants on climate change Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Key ObamaCare groups in limbo | Opioids sending thousands of kids into foster care | House passes bill allowing Medicaid to pay for opioid treatments US watchdog: 'We failed' to stem Afghan opium production MORE (Ky.) changed his mind.

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

ADVERTISEMENT

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 TrumpCNN analyst Kirsten Powers: Melania's jacket should read 'Let them eat cake' CNN's Cuomo confronts Lewandowski over 'womp womp' remark Sessions says FBI agent Peter Strzok no longer has his security clearance 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 IsaksonOn The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending Senators hammer Ross over Trump tariffs Overnight Finance: Senators introduce bill to curb Trump's tariff authority | McConnell calls it 'exercise in futility' | Kudlow warns WTO won't dictate policy | Mulvaney feud with consumer advocates deepens 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 CorkerOn The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending Senators hammer Ross over Trump tariffs GOP senator demands details on 'damaging' tariffs 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 CoonsSenate moderates hunt for compromise on family separation bill All the times Horowitz contradicted Wray — but nobody seemed to notice Hillicon Valley: Trump hits China with massive tech tariffs | Facebook meets with GOP leaders over bias allegations | Judge sends Manafort to jail ahead of trial | AT&T completes Time Warner purchase 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) ManchinThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Trump caves under immense pressure — what now? Election Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral Manchin up 9 points over GOP challenger in W.Va. Senate race MORE (D-W.Va.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyElection Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral Actress Marcia Gay Harden urges Congress to boost Alzheimer's funding Manchin becomes final Democrat to back bill preventing separation of immigrant families MORE (D-Ind.) said they would vote for Pompeo. They join Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampSupreme Court rules states can require online sellers to collect sales tax Election Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral Poll: GOP challenger narrowly leads Heitkamp in North Dakota 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 KerryShould President Trump, like President Obama, forsake human rights in pursuit of the deal with a tyrant? GOP Senate report says Obama officials gave Iran access to US financial system Democrats conflicted over how hard to hit Trump on Iran MORE was confirmed 94–3, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSessions says FBI agent Peter Strzok no longer has his security clearance Melania Trump puzzles with 'I really don't care' jacket Grassley wants to subpoena Comey, Lynch after critical IG report 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:

-- The Hill: Korean peace talks pose new challenge for Trump

-- The Hill: Trump VA pick faces challenge to convince senators he's ready for job

-- The Hill: Opinion: Reusability is the key for the next national security space revolution

-- The Hill: Opinion: From drones to the more conventional, recent weapon developments should alarm us all

-- The Hill: Opinion: Nuclear misconceptions must not inform US weapons policy

-- Associated Press: South Korea halts propaganda broadcasts before summit with North

-- The New York Times: A shadowy war's newest front: A drone base rising from Saharan dust