U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) vowed during a press conference Wednesday to block the nominations of Mike Pompeo to secretary of state and Gina Haspel to CIA director.
“My announcement today is that I will oppose both Pompeo’s nomination and Haspel’s nomination,” Paul said.
The senator told reporters he was perplexed by President Trump’s decision to nominate the pair, who were chosen Tuesday following the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, given their support of policies opposed by Trump during his campaign.
“I think it goes against most of the things that President Trump campaigned on, that the unintended consequences of regime change in Iraq actually led to instability in the Middle East and actually made the conditions worse in the Middle East,” Paul said of Pompeo. “So it perplexes me that he is now nominating for secretary of state someone who has advocated and pushed for regime change in Iran.”
Paul criticized Haspel for both her role in running a secret black site in Thailand during the Bush administration as well as her direct involvement in torture.
Reading a quote attributed to Haspel in which she praised the events during one of her interrogations, Paul accused the nominee of having “joyful glee” while torturing detainees.
“When you read that, sort of the joyful glee at someone who’s being tortured, I find it just amazing that anyone would consider having this woman at the head of the CIA,” Paul said. “My opposition to her is over her direct participation in interrogation and her gleeful enjoyment at the suffering of someone being tortured.”
During a question and answer session, Paul also told reporters that he would not rule out a filibuster to block the nominees.
“People complain sometimes about the filibuster, they complain about trying to obstruct,” Paul added. “I think the debate over whether or not America is a country that is in favor of torture or not is an important one.”
Paul, the first Republican to oppose the nominations, voted against Pompeo for CIA director last year for refusing to condemn the torture program.
The senator stated that he continues to support the president and has backed several of his cabinet picks, but called the latest nominations “the wrong kind of message to send the world.”
“I have members of my family who are actively serving the country and I don’t want the message to be that if members of our armed services are captured that since torture’s okay with the Americans its going to be fine to torture Americans when they are captured,” Paul said.
The senator also spoke out against other potential Trump nominees including John Bolton, President George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations.
“These are the crazy neo-conservatives that really have opposed Trump on everything and he’s actually considering and has appointed many of these people to his cabinet,” Paul said.
A date has yet to be set for the pair’s confirmation hearings in the Senate.