Rand Paul to oppose Pompeo, Haspel

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Congress must step up to protect Medicare home health care Business, conservative groups slam Trump’s national emergency declaration MORE (R-Ky.) said on Wednesday he would oppose President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump is a Russian asset McCabe: Trump ‘undermining the role of law enforcement’ MORE's nominations of CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump administration combining Palestinian mission, Israeli embassy next month: report The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race The Hill's Morning Report - Trump faces mounting challenges to emergency declaration 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 CorkerSasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger RNC votes to give Trump 'undivided support' ahead of 2020 Sen. Risch has unique chance to guide Trump on foreign policy 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 TillersonHeather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN ambassador job Trump administration’s top European diplomat to resign in February Pompeo planning to meet with Pat Roberts amid 2020 Senate speculation MORE would also get a vote before the full Senate even if his panel split. At the time, Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioIvanka must recalibrate her paid family leave plan to make it tenable The United States needs a career ambassador in Honduras Rubio in Colombia to push for delivery of humanitarian aid to Venezuela 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 McCainMellman: Where are good faith and integrity? GOP senator says Republicans didn't control Senate when they held majority Pence met with silence after mentioning Trump in Munich speech 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 SchumerGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration 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 Stanley KingTexas senator introduces bill to produce coin honoring Bushes Drama hits Senate Intel panel’s Russia inquiry Warner, Burr split on committee findings on collusion 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 SchatzDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal GOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats Trump defends using DOD funds on border wall: 'Some of the generals think that this is more important' 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 FeinsteinFeinstein says she thinks Biden will run after meeting with him Trump judicial nominee Neomi Rao seeks to clarify past remarks on date rape Bottom Line 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.