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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Unable To Do Much More Than Grandstand, Dems In Congress Plead For Support Of Their Idea To Cabinet Appointees


Democrats to Cabinet picks: Save us from Trump


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Washington Examiner
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Senate Democrats have a request for President-elect Trump's Cabinet nominees: please save us from your boss.

It's a common theme in the confirmation hearings of nominees who have good reputations in their fields or with whom the senators have relationships. They are regularly asked to disavow controversial things Trump has said and to stand up to him once in office.
And frequently, they are complying.
The latest example is Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., Trump's nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Pompeo was asked Wednesday to contradict the president-elect's campaign rhetoric on Russia, torture, the targeting of civilians in warfare and the impartiality of an intelligence community that has released reports Trump has criticized.


Pompeo was also asked if he would stand up to, even disobey, the president on some of these issues when conscience and law required.

"If you were ordered by the president to restart the CIA's use of enhanced interrogation techniques that fall outside of the Army Field Manual, would you comply?" asked Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
"Senator, absolutely not," Pompeo replied without hesitation. "Moreover, I can't imagine that I would be asked that by the president-elect or then president … I voted for the change that put the Army Field Manual in place as a member of Congress ... . I am also deeply aware that any changes to that any changes to that will come through Congress and the president."
"And regular order?" Feinstein prodded.
"And regular order, yes ma'am, absolutely," he answered.

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Pressed by committee Democrats on Russian hacking, Pompeo said the intelligence report is "pretty clear about what took place here about Russia involvement in efforts to hack information and to have an impact on American democracy. This was aggressive action taken by senior leadership inside of Russia."

Asked by Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with the Democrats, about what he would do if evidence emerged to support any of the unsubstantiated allegations that have floated around this week, Pompeo promised to follow the evidence wherever it led.
"I have no doubt that the discourse that's been taking place is something that Vladimir Putin would look at and say, 'Wow, that was among the objectives that I had," Pompeo said of the role politics was playing the debate over the hacking intelligence.
Retired Gen. James Mattis, Trump's nominee for secretary of defense, has faced similar lines of inquiry — and has similarly appeared willing to buck the president-elect. Trump has credited Mattis with helping him rethink his position on waterboarding.
Democrats spoke as if Mattis was an essential check on Trump, although 17 of them did vote against giving him an exemption to serve as secretary of defense so soon after retiring from the military.

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Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., told Mattis "many have supported the waiver legislation in your confirmation because they believe you will be, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, 'the saucer that cools the coffee.'"

This is historically the analogy used when describing the Senate's role in checking the House of Representatives, which has fewer procedural restraints on majorities.
"I believe that your appreciation for the costs of war in blood, treasure, and lives and the impact on veterans afterward will enable you to be a check on rash and potentially ill-considered use of military force by a president-elect who perhaps lacks that same appreciation," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
Even some Republicans see Mattis' role in a Trump administration this way.
"A Secretary Mattis would be a stabilizing and moderating force, preventing wildly stupid, dangerous and illegal things from happening, and over time helping to steer American foreign and security policy in a sound and sensible direction," former George W. Bush appointee Eliot Cohen told the New York Times.


Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta praised Mattis' nomination long before his confirmation hearings, telling the Washington Post, "You wanted Jim Mattis in the room, because he speaks truth to power."

"Truth to power" was also a phrase used in connection with retired Gen. John Kelly, Trump's nominee for secretary of homeland security. Kelly also received a friendly reception from Senate Democrats who view him as a moderating influence.
"General Kelly is good choice for Secretary of Homeland Security," Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., tweeted after his confirmation hearing. "I believe him when he says he 'will speak truth to power.' Good answers."
"I don't think we should ever come close to crossing a line we Americans expect to follow in terms of interrogation techniques," Kelly told the Senate.
Trump's DHS pick didn't like religious profiling of Muslims either. "I don't think it's ever appropriate to focus on something like religion as the only factor," he said. "I don't believe in registering people based on religion or ethnicity."
Even Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., an immigration hawk closely tied to Trump, has distanced himself from some of the president-elect's positions during his confirmation hearings for attorney general. "I have no belief and I do not support the idea that Muslims, as a religious group, should be denied admission to the United States," Sessions told Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Sessions also acknowledged waterboarding is now illegal.
Unlike some of the other nominees, Sessions' concessions haven't stopped him from being placed by his Democratic colleagues in their basket of deplorables — or at least non-confirmables — though in fact they can't halt his nomination without improbable Republican defections.
Lacking any filibuster power over these appointees, Democrats are now counting on them to hold back the very man who nominated them.ump's DHS pick didn't like religious profiling of Muslims either. "I don't think it's ever appropriate to focus on something like religion as the only factor," he said. "I don't believe in registering people based on religion or ethnicity."
Even Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., an immigration hawk closely tied to Trump, has distanced himself from some of the president-elect's positions during his confirmation hearings for attorney general. "I have no belief and I do not support the idea that Muslims, as a religious group, should be denied admission to the United States," Sessions told Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Sessions also acknowledged waterboarding is now illegal.
Unlike some of the other nominees, Sessions' concessions haven't stopped him from being placed by his Democratic colleagues in their basket of deplorables — or at least non-confirmables — though in fact they can't halt his nomination without improbable Republican defections.
Lacking any filibuster power over these appointees, Democrats are now counting on them to hold back the very man who nominated them.