Mike Pompeo is confirmed as CIA Director and the voting isn’t even over as I write this.
According to six sources familiar with the negotiations over Pompeo’s confirmation, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told Republican leaders that he would allow Pompeo to be confirmed by voice vote on Inauguration Day, along with two other Trump nominees who have national security responsibilities. But Schumer broke his promise, these sources say, and offered an insulting excuse for having done so.
Among the reasons Schumer cited: Senator Dianne Feinstein, who had until this Congress been ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee and is currently ranking member on Senate Judiciary, complained that the schedule would prevent her from attending hearings for both Pompeo and Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions.
McConnell consulted Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, Intel committee member Tom Cotton, and the incoming Trump administration. Republicans agreed to delay Pompeo, whose team was happy to have an extra day to prepare. But the Republicans had a condition. If we agree to push back Pompeo’s hearing for a day, they told Schumer, you must agree to include him in the group of national security officials who will be confirmed by a voice vote on Inauguration Day, January 20. According to these sources, Schumer agreed, with alacrity, having secured the delay he’d sought.
But on January 19, one day before Trump’s inauguration, Ron Wyden said he’d seek to delay Pompeo’s confirmation when the Senate convened late Friday afternoon. That evening Cotton, who is close to Pompeo from their time together in the House of Representatives, began calling his colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee, including Wyden, seeking to avoid the delay. Some of the calls were cordial. Others were testy.
And this happened:
Cotton angrily confronted Schumer about his broken promise. According to witnesses, Schumer told Cotton to lower his voice and asked him move off of the Senate floor to an adjacent hallway for a private discussion. “We need to take this out into the hallway,” Schumer said. Cotton walked with Schumer but loudly rejected his first request. “Don’t tell me to lower my voice!” he shouted, with an additional salty admonition tacked on for emphasis. Burr and Cornyn were present, as was Senator Mark Warner, ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and several aides.
Schumer told Cotton that the Senate had never previously confirmed a CIA director on Inauguration Day and if Cotton had been around eight years earlier, he’d know that Republicans didn’t extend that courtesy for incoming president Barack Obama. “Eight years ago, I was getting my ass shot at in Afghanistan,” Cotton snapped. “So don’t talk to me about where I was 8 years ago.”
Pompeo has a helluva challenge ahead of him. Under Obama the agency has become flaccid, stupid, and heavily politicized. It either failed to anticipate the logical and foreseeable consequences of Hillary’s Libyan Adventure, the Arab Spring, or the attempt by the Obama administration to overthrow Assad. It as caught flatfooted in Ukraine and Crimea. In fact, the past eight years have been one geopolitical surprise after another while the CIA picked its butt and contemplated climate change.
More recently, former director John Brennan has been at the center of an Obama Administration scheme to discredit President Trump before he was sworn in. There is no doubt that some of the senior career people at Langley were up to their unibrows in the crap as well.
Pompeo needs to build trust, for sure, but he also needs to bring fire and sword to a very sick and ineffectual agency that the nation depends upon.