Exclusive: GOP senators seek FBI investigation into Biden Pentagon nominee
A group of 18 Republican senators on Tuesday wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray seeking an investigation into President Biden’s nominee for a top role in the Pentagon over whether he disclosed or solicited classified information after leaving his government job in the Obama administration.
The senators requested Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) not advance the nomination of Colin Kahl for under secretary of Defense policy for a full vote until the FBI has completed an investigation, according to a copy of the letter obtained exclusively by The Hill.
Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), who led the letter-writing effort, accused Kahl of using social media to disclose classified information.
“These disclosures are extremely concerning and warrant a complete FBI investigation to determine the full scope of the nominee’s mishandling of sensitive national security information, apparently for his own perceived political gain,” Hagerty said in a statement to The Hill.
Hagerty and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) led the effort to write the letter, and 16 other Republican senators signed on, including Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Braun (Ind.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Joni Ernst (Iowa) and Rick Scott (Fla.).
The letter cites written responses from Kahl from late last month in which he indicated to senators that an article in The Washington Post in March 2017 was the source of his Twitter posts that day in which he discussed what the senators allege are classified details of a National Security Council committee meeting about a U.S. operation in Yemen.
But the article cited by Kahl does not account for all of the sensitive contents of his tweets, the senators wrote.
They also cited additional tweets from Kahl later in 2017 in which they allege he appeared to confirm leaked classified information related to military options in North Korea and later indicated “multiple” officials within the Trump administration had confirmed the information to him.
“This report should be taken very seriously,” Kahl tweeted on Dec. 20, 2017. “There is a contingent at the White House that believes a limited strike is viable and the US can control escalation by threatening regime change if Kim Jong Un retaliates. Very dangerous thinking.”
“Kahl’s growing record of apparent mishandling of classified information and controlled unclassified information and his evasive response regarding this issue fall short of the standard required for holding one of our nation’s top national security positions,” the GOP senators wrote to Wray.
“By apparently soliciting or otherwise receiving classified information and controlled unclassified information from U.S. government officials serving in national security roles and repeatedly posting such information on social media websites, Kahl demonstrated disregard for security protocols that are designed to protect our national security interests,” the senators wrote.
The senators explicitly asked Wray and the FBI to review the highlighted tweets from Kahl, as well as whether he disclosed classified information or uncontrolled classified information on social media after leaving the government, whether he ever received classified information after leaving the government and whether he violated his classified information nondisclosure agreement.
The Senate Armed Services Committee last month deadlocked in a vote on Kahl’s nomination to lead the Pentagon’s policy shop. The 13-13 vote meant Kahl’s nomination advanced out of committee but will have to overcome an additional procedural hurdle on the Senate floor.
Republicans had originally unified against Kahl after criticizing him for fiery tweets lambasting the Trump administration, as well as his support for the Iran nuclear deal.
During his confirmation hearing, Kahl apologized for the “disrespectful” language in his tweets and pledged to approach the Pentagon job in a nonpartisan way, saying his past government service demonstrates his ability to do so. Democrats largely dismissed criticism of Kahl as hypocritical, saying that GOP lawmakers stayed silent on former President Trump’s own inflammatory tweets.
But the new questions surrounding his past tweets are certain to prompt fresh scrutiny from the GOP in the Senate.
Should all 50 members of the Democratic conference continue to back Kahl’s nomination, however, he would be confirmed with Vice President Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote.