Senate votes to confirm Trump counterintelligence chief

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The Senate voted Wednesday to confirm President Trump’s counterintelligence chief after the nomination was stuck in limbo for nearly two years.

Senators voted 83-7 on William Evanina’s nomination to be the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.

Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Ed Markey (Mass.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) voted against the nomination.

The Senate’s vote comes two days after Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) ended a nearly two-year blockade on the nomination, which he initially placed a hold on in June 2018.

“Due to the recent actions by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the Attorney General to finally respond to my very longstanding oversight requests, I withdraw my objection to Mr. Evanina’s nomination,” Grassley said in a statement.

Grassley announced in 2018 that he was putting a hold on Evanina’s nomination because the intelligence community had been slow to respond to his oversight requests. He placed a hold on the nomination for a second time in March 2019, after the start of the new session of Congress.

Grassley said at the time, and again on Monday, that he was not stonewalling Evanina’s nomination for personal reasons.

“I did not question Mr. Evanina’s credentials in any way, and I put my statement of those reasons in the Record. I have done that consistently, not only since the rules of the Senate first required every Member to do that but even before that rule was put in place,” Grassley said Monday.

He added that his actions should be a “reminder that when it comes to congressional oversight, I will use all the tools at my disposal to get to the truth of the matter and get access to the records that I believe are necessary to advance my investigations.”

Trump nominated Evanina in February 2018. Evanina has been filling the position since 2014, but lawmakers subsequently decided the post should require Senate confirmation.

His nomination has been approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee twice. But Grassley’s hold meant that if McConnell wanted to schedule a vote he would have to go through procedural loopholes that would eat up days of floor time.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the committee, urged his colleagues to support Evanina’s nomination ahead of Wednesday’s vote.

“Unfortunately, over the last two years, despite universal recognition of Bill’s qualifications for the position, his nomination became entangled in unrelated matters. Despite the delay, Bill stayed the course, committed to the mission above all else,” Warner said.

Tags Chris Van Hollen Chuck Grassley Coronavirus Counterintelligence Donald Trump Ed Markey Jeff Merkley Mark Warner Mazie Hirono Ron Wyden Tammy Duckworth
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