WASHINGTON (CN) — Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo was confirmed as CIA director Monday by 66-32 vote in the Senate, with only one Republican voting against him.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was the only Republican to oppose Pompeo’s nomination, citing concerns about the four-term Republican’s support of mass surveillance programs.
“I voted against the new CIA director because I worry that his desire for security will trump his defense of liberty,” Paul said in a statement. “More than ever before, oversight of the secretive world of intelligence is critically important.”
Pompeo will take over an agency with which Trump has feuded openly — and compared to Nazi Germany — after it concluded publicly that Russia tried to swing the November election in Trump’s favor.
Trump belittled the CIA to The Washington Post for its conclusion about Russian meddling in the election, saying, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”
After the election meddling was followed by release of a supposed “dossier” on Trump with salacious allegations about one of his visits to Russia, Trump tweeted: “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
That was not received kindly by former CIA directors, who criticized Trump in no uncertain terms.
Some Democrats, particularly Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, have criticized Pompeo for his support of mass surveillance programs, and delayed the vote, which was originally scheduled for Friday after Trump’s inauguration.
On Monday, Wyden said on the Senate floor before the vote: “After consideration of his testimony and response to written questions, I have concluded that he is the wrong man for the job. He has endorsed extreme policies that would fundamentally erode the liberties and freedoms of our people without making us safer. He has been unwilling to provide meaningful responses to my questions with respect to these views and when he has provided responses, they have either been so vague or so contradictory that it is impossible to determine what his core beliefs are or what he might actually do if confirmed.”
In his lengthy floor speech before the vote, Wyden blasted Pompeo for writing a Wall Street Journal op-ed calling for expansion of government surveillance capabilities just months after voting for the USA Freedom Act, which toned down the government’s ability to collect cell phone data from citizens.
Wyden said that even after he questioned Pompeo at a confirmation hearing last week he could not be sure where the man stood on mass surveillance.
“What does the congressman believe?” Wyden asked on the floor Monday. “Does he stand by his vote to abolish the NSA phone records dragnet? Was that what he was suggesting when he brought up that vote during his hearing, or does he stand by what he wrote in his major opinion article that came out well after the law that he voted for?”
But with Republicans holding a four-seat margin in the Senate and confirmation requiring only a simple majority, Pompeo’s nomination never in danger Monday night.
Connecticut Democratic Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal missed the vote because bad weather delayed their flights to Washington.
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