Paul: Pompeo, Haspel 'Want to Manipulate the President Into the Sphere of the Neocons'

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) talks to reporters at the Capitol on March 14, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said today that he intends on opposing the nominations of Mike Pompeo for secretary of State and Gina Haspel for CIA director because he “can’t support people who never understood America First and want to manipulate the president into the sphere of the neocons who never met a war they didn’t want to star in.”

President Trump announced Tuesday that he wants Pompeo, a former congressman currently leading the CIA, to move over to replace fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Haspel, currently deputy director of the CIA, to lead the agency. Both must go through the Senate confirmation process.

Haspel’s past leadership of a “black site” detention facility in Thailand where enhanced interrogation techniques were employed has drawn criticism from some lawmakers in both parties.

At a press conference on Capitol Hill today, Paul said what he liked about candidate Trump was “his strong condemnation of the Iraq war.”

“I believe President Trump has done a great job, and I continue to support him, but I cannot endorse his nomination of people who loved the Iraq war so much that they want an Iran war next,” he said. “Director Pompeo has not learned the lessons of regime change and wants regime change in Iran.”

“…President Trump sought to break with the foreign policy mistakes of the last two administrations. Yet now he picks for secretary of State and CIA director people who embody them, defend them, and, I’m afraid, will repeat them. I will not support their nominations.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who along with Paul sits on the Foreign Relations Committee and thus will get to question Pompeo at his impending confirmation hearing, told MSNBC that since Pompeo “didn’t want to do the deal and basically said, hey, look, it would take us 2,000 bombing runs to wipe out Iranian nuclear capacity, you know our allies and us could do that, anybody who is leaning towards military action over diplomacy, I think that raises real problems if you’re being nominated to be the chief diplomat of the United States.”

“He’s going to have a lot of convincing to do based on the statements he has on the record,” Kaine said. “I don’t think we need more fire and fury in the secretary of State’s office. I think we need a diplomat.”