Senate confirmation fights ahead on Trump's State, CIA picks
WASHINGTON (AP) — Back in 2017, the Senate gave quick confirmation to President Donald Trump's national security team and his first secretary of state. But it's not likely to go as smoothly for Trump's new nominees to run State and the CIA.
Senate Democrats – and some top Republicans – are slow-walking the process amid fresh questions over the Trump administration's stance toward Russia and revived inquiries into the CIA's dark history of torture.
"There are a lot of unanswered questions," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
The president's firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson touched off a Senate confirmation battle that will play out this spring ahead of midterm elections when control of Congress hangs in balance.
By tapping CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace Tillerson, the White House is counting on a repeat of Senate support for the former Kansas congressman confirmed last year to lead the clandestine agency.
But the political ground has shifted since the 66-32 vote to confirm Pompeo in January 2017 when the GOP-led Congress was eager to put the new president's team in place and Democrats were unwilling to stand in the way. More than a dozen Democrats joined all but one Republican, GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, in backing him.
In the year since, Pompeo has drawn scrutiny for actions and statements showcasing his loyalty to Trump and his approach toward Russia.
Last month, Pompeo's meeting with two top Russian spy chiefs drew a chain of questions from Schumer in part because it occurred days before the Trump administration initially decided not to issue new sanctions over Russian interference in the election.