WASHINGTON - Two U.S. Republican senators sparred Sunday over President Donald Trump's nomination of Mike Pompeo, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, as his new secretary of state, and deputy CIA chief Gina Haspel to take over at the intelligence agency.
If confirmed, Haspel would be the first female director in the CIA's 70-year history.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina predicted on CNN that both Pompeo and Haspel would be confirmed by the Senate. He dismissed one opponent of the nominations, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, as "an outlier" among Republican lawmakers.
Paul, also on CNN, argued against Pompeo, saying Pompeo supports U.S.-sanctioned regime change in some foreign countries. Rand said Haspel was linked to CIA torture of terrorism suspects at clandestine sites overseas.
Paul said he would "do whatever it takes" to derail the two nominations in the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow 51-49 majority. Paul said that if need be, he would filibuster the nominations, in an attempt to block them from winning approval.
Graham described Haspel as "highly qualified," while acknowledging her past support of "enhanced interrogation" techniques — including waterboarding, which simulates drowning — against terrorism suspects in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. The CIA no longer permits enhanced interrogation.
"I'm looking forward for her to acknowledge this policy is no longer allowed," Graham said.
Paul said he does not think Pompeo, a former Kansas congressman before Trump named him CIA director, would be a "good fit" as the nation's top diplomat to succeed Rex Tillerson, who was fired last week by Trump after a year on the job.
"I don't think our policy ought to be for regime change," Paul said.
As for Haspel, Paul said, "What America stands for is not torture. Torture is the hallmark of totalitarianism."
Paul cited Haspel's reported oversight of a CIA "black site" in Thailand and her subsequent role in an order to destroy video evidence of the interrogations.
"It's just inconsistent with who we are as a people to have someone run our spy agency that has all this enormous power, who is intimately involved with torture, and from everything we're reading, was supportive of the policy," Paul said.