White House pushes Pompeo confirmation, Senate debates ahead of vote tonight

(Photo credit: Central Intelligence Agency via Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

The Senate began its first day of business today with the new president in office. Top items on the agenda? Replacing the Affordable Care Act and continuing the process of confirming cabinet members.

The Senate Foreign Affairs Committee advanced Secretary of State nominee and longtime ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to the full Senate for final confirmation. The committee vote was 11-10, with Florida’s Marco Rubio ultimately supporting the nomination despite his clearly acrimonious line of questioning during Tillerson’s testimony last week. And the nominee for CIA Director, Mike Pompeo, faced a vote in the full Senate. FSRN’s Robert Packard has more on what transpired.

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[Editor’s note: The Weekly Edition aired an updated version of this story, reflecting Pompeo’s confirmation.]

In the opening remarks of his first formal press conference as White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer lashed out at Senate Democrats for not having already confirmed Representative Mike Pompeo to the post of CIA Director.

“It’s important to note that at this point in 2009, President Obama had seven of his nominees confirmed on day one, and five more in the first week. As it stands today, we have two,” remarked Spicer. “Democrats even held up the confirmation of CIA Director Mike Pompeo needlessly, leaving one of our most important national security agencies without its top leader on day one.”

President Donald Trump professed his full support for the intelligence community during a visit to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia on Saturday, saying, “There is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump.”

The raucous cheers and applause clashed with the surroundings. Trump was speaking before the agency’s Memorial Wall, a space honoring CIA personnel who have died in the line of duty.

“So I can only say that I am with you 1000 percent. And the reason you’re my first stop is that as you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth,” Trump declared amid laughter and applause. “And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community. And I just want to let you know, the reason you’re the number one stop is exactly the opposite.”

ABC News reports the people loudly cheering and clapping in what is considered the most solemn corner of the agency’s headquarters may not have been CIA employees.

At the Monday press conference, ABC’s Jonathan Karl asked Spicer to confirm the affiliation of those cheering at the event. After some back and forth, Spicer concluded, “I’m not really sure why this matters.”

The CIA visit  was reportedly planned to coincide with what the White House presumed would be Mike Pompeo’s swearing-in as head of the agency. But what Trump staffers had apparently believed would be a shoe-in confirmation process remained less than certain as the Senate continued to debate Monday evening.

Senate Intelligence Committee Member, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden called Pompeo the wrong man for the job: “Now, the director of the CIA is a unique position. When someone is nominated to lead a department that operates more or less openly, at least the public can assess his or her performance – at least a fully informed Congress when he or she implements wrongheaded policies. But the CIA director operates in secret. What the public finds out is entirely up to the CIA and the administration.”

As of deadline, the Senate debate is ongoing. Pompeo only needs a simple majority of Senators to vote in his favor to seal his confirmation as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

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