Sen. Rand Paul says he opposes Trump's picks for secretary of State, CIA director

Key Points
  • Paul said he opposes Gina Haspel's nomination to lead the CIA due to her involvement in a CIA torture site in Thailand.
  • The Republican senator said he opposes Mike Pompeo's nomination to lead the State Department due to his hawkish views on foreign policy.
  • Sen. John McCain has also expressed concern about Haspel's nomination, raising the possibility that the White House may not have enough Republican votes to confirm her.
Rand Paul to oppose new CIA and Secretary of State picks
Rand Paul to oppose new CIA and Secretary of State picks

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced on Wednesday that he will oppose President Donald Trump's nominees to take the reins at the State Department and CIA, complicating White House efforts to fill two posts that are essential to conducting U.S. foreign policy.

Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday and nominated CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a foreign policy hawk, to take over as the United States' chief diplomat.

Gina Haspel, the CIA's deputy director, has been selected by the president to lead the country's main intelligence agency after Pompeo moves to the State Department.

"I will oppose both Pompeo's nomination and Haspel's nomination," Paul said.

The Kentucky senator said he opposes Haspel's nomination due to her involvement in a CIA torture site in Thailand, where captured al Qaeda suspects were held in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"My opposition to her is over her direct participation in interrogation and her gleeful enjoyment of someone being tortured," said Paul, a libertarian who has staked out dovish positions on U.S. foreign policy that buck the GOP mainstream.

Paul read quotes he attributed to Haspel in which she allegedly mocked a captured al Qaeda suspect as he was being waterboarded.

Paul's opposition to Haspel's nomination raises the prospect that the White House may struggle to gather the votes needed in the Senate to confirm her as the head of the CIA. If all 49 senators in the Democratic caucus vote against Haspel, Paul and another Republican voting "no" would block her from taking over the agency.


Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has yet to publicly call on his fellow Democrats to oppose either Haspel or Pompeo.

Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz.,also expressed misgivings about Haspel's nomination. McCain, a former Navy airman who was captured and tortured by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, strongly opposed the torture of detainees who were captured by the United States in the wars launched after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"The torture of detainees in U.S. custody during the last decade was one of the darkest chapters in American history," McCain said in a statement Tuesday. "Ms. Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA's interrogation program during the confirmation process."

Meanwhile, Paul said he is concerned about Pompeo's positions on foreign policy, particularly toward Iran. The Republican senator said Pompeo's hawkish stance contradicts the skepticism Trump expressed toward foreign interventions and regime change on the campaign trail.

"It perplexes me that he is now nominating someone for secretary of State who has advocated and pushed for regime change in Iran," Paul said.

McCain, for his part, said in Tuesday's statement he has confidence that Pompeo will "serve our nation honorably as Secretary of State, if confirmed."