Rand Paul to oppose Pompeo, Haspel

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSunday Talk Shows: Lawmakers look ahead to House vote on articles of impeachment, Senate trial Pentagon to take bigger role in vetting foreign students after Pensacola shooting Overnight Defense: House passes compromise defense bill | Turkey sanctions advance in Senate over Trump objections | Top general says military won't be 'raping, burning and pillaging' after Trump pardons MORE (R-Ky.) said on Wednesday he would oppose President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE's nominations of CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump greeted with cheers at 120th Army-Navy game Judge orders State Dept. to search for and provide more Ukraine docs Pompeo launches personal Twitter account amid speculation over Senate run MORE to be secretary of State and CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency.

Paul said that he will oppose the nominations and "do everything I can to block" them.

"My announcement today is that I will oppose both Pompeo's nomination and Haspel's nomination," Paul said.

Paul is the first Republican to come out against the two nominations, which were announced by Trump on Tuesday. Last year, he was the only Republican to vote against Pompeo for CIA director.

The senator pointed to his previous statement that Pompeo doesn't believe "enhanced interrogation techniques" to be torture, as well as his support for the Iraq War, in explaining his opposition. 

"I'm perplexed by the nomination of people who love the Iraq War so much that they would advocate for a war with Iran next. I think it goes against most of the things President Trump campaigned on," he said. 

Paul said he is opposing Haspel due to her involvement in the enhanced interrogation program during the George W. Bush administration. He said she showed "joyful glee at someone who is being tortured." 

"I find it just amazing that anyone would consider having this woman at the head of the CIA," Paul said. 

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Paul's opposition to Pompeo complicates, but doesn't sink, his path to leading the State Department.

Republicans have an 11-10 advantage on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, making Paul a key vote.

If Paul votes no during the panel's deliberations and every Democrat opposes him, committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (R-Tenn.) will be forced to decide if he'll move Pompeo's nomination to the floor anyway.

Corker said last year that ousted Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonReport: Trump UK ambassador fired deputy for mentioning Obama in speech Overnight Defense: Ex-Navy secretary slams Trump in new op-ed | Impeachment tests Pompeo's ties with Trump | Mexican president rules out US 'intervention' against cartels Pompeo-Trump relationship tested by impeachment inquiry MORE would also get a vote before the full Senate even if his panel split. At the time, Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioWhite House makes push for paid family leave and child care reform Tom Hanks weighs in on primary: 'Anybody can become president' GOP senator blocks bill aimed at preventing Russia election meddling MORE (R-Fla.) was viewed as a potential swing vote.

Corker signaled on Wednesday that Pompeo would get a full Senate vote even if Paul opposed him and split the committee. 

"We have multiple ways of reporting people. We've had this type of thing come up in the past," he said. 

He added that reporters "should let us play it out" and "I know of one member thus far that's going to vote no."

Paul's defection could also force Republicans to rely on Vice President Pence, or Democrats, to get Pompeo through the full Senate.

Assuming every Republican senator but Paul supports Pompeo, as they did for his current CIA post, and every Democrat opposes, the Senate would split 50-50.

The absence of Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay Budowsky: Would John McCain back impeachment? MORE (R-Ariz.), who is undergoing treatment for brain cancer and hasn't voted in months, could further complicate Pompeo's nomination.

If McCain doesn't return and Paul votes no, that would leave Republicans short, at a 49-50 vote, forcing them to win over a Democrat.

Pompeo could win over Democratic votes, though he'll likely face a tighter vote than he did last year when he was confirmed to lead the CIA.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTurf war derails bipartisan push on surprise medical bills Senate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA CEO group pushes Trump, Congress on paid family, medical leave MORE (D-N.Y.) said on Tuesday that he was not actively urging his caucus to oppose Pompeo or Haspel but said the two picks will face "unanswered" and "outstanding" questions.

Fourteen Democrats, including Schumer, and Independent Sen. Angus KingAngus KingHillicon Valley: Pentagon pushes back on Amazon lawsuit | Lawmakers dismiss Chinese threat to US tech companies | YouTube unveils new anti-harassment policy | Agencies get annual IT grades Legislation to protect electric grid from cyberattacks added to massive defense bill Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE (Maine), supported Pompeo to lead the CIA.

But several have indicated they are reconsidering their votes, or remaining on the fence, until Pompeo's hearing before the Foreign Relations Committee next month.

"I'm not taking a position until we hear from him, but there are lots of outstanding questions," Schumer told reporters.

Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzSenate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA There's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down Advocates hopeful dueling privacy bills can bridge partisan divide MORE (D-Hawaii), who also supported Pompeo for his CIA post, said, "There are a number of us who voted for him last time who are actively reconsidering."

And King said he would reserve his decision on the Secretary of State position until Pompeo had a hearing.

Paul isn't on the Intelligence Committee, which will handle Haspel's hearing.

But it appears increasingly likely Republicans will need help from Democrats to get her confirmed. 

In addition to Paul's questions, McCain said Haspel "needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process."

"Any nominee for Director of the CIA must pledge without reservation to uphold this prohibition, which has helped us to regain our position of leadership in the struggle for universal human rights—the struggle upon which this country was founded, and which remains its highest aspiration," McCain said in a statement.

No Democrats have formally said they will oppose Haspel, but several have raised concerns about her involvement in the interrogation program.

If Paul votes no, and McCain is absent, leadership will need to win over every other GOP senator and at least one Democrat in order for Pence to cast a tiebreaking vote.

Paul signaled that he wasn't sure if other GOP senators would oppose Haspel adding "it depends on the solidarity of the Democrats."

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSanders revokes congressional endorsement for Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur Sanders endorses Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur for Katie Hill's former House seat Houston police chief stands by criticism of McConnell, Cruz, Cornyn: 'This is not political' MORE (D-Calif.) said she is undecided but spoke relatively positively about Haspel on Tuesday.

The California senator told reporters that they have "spent some time" together, including having dinner.

"Everything I know is she has been a good deputy director. ... I think hopefully the entire organization learned something from the so-called enhanced interrogation program," she said.

Updated at 3:37 p.m.