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Donald Trump's Cabinet: Should the Senate Confirm Jeff Sessions and Mike Pompeo?

by Countable | 11.18.16

President-Elect Donald Trump is beginning to fill out his cabinet, appointing three members that will help guide his administration over the next four years. On Friday, Trump named Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to be his Attorney General, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as his national security adviser.

Sessions and Pompeo will have to be confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and then the full Senate before taking their posts next year. Flynn, who will work with the National Security Council and sit in the Situation Room in times of crisis with the new president, does not need confirmation by the Senate or any congressional body.

You can read more about the candidates below and take action to tell your senators what you think. You can see if your senator is on the Judiciary Committee and will get to review these candidates first here.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, Attorney General Nominee

Sessions, a conservative known for his hard-line stance on immigration issues, has served in the Senate since 1997. In addition to pushing for border security and crackdowns on illegal immigration, Sessions has called for curbing immigration in general (even of the legal variety), arguing that an influx in new foreign-born citizens will put too much "pressure … on wages, as well as schools, hospitals and many other community resources."

Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump for the presidency and advised him personally on immigration, national security, his vice presidential choice and the transition team that has been selecting cabinet nominees. On Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, Sessions has argued that while "most" Muslims are not violent, he supports the president-elect’s decision to slow down immigration from nations where terrorism could be a threat, while the U.S. assesses the national security risk.

Sessions has faced Senate confirmation before. After serving as U.S. Attorney, Reagan nominated him to be a judge on a U.S. District Court in Alabama, but Sessions was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee, in part over allegations of racism. A former colleague, who is African-American, testified that Sessions called him "boy," rejected civil rights cases, joked about the KKK and referred to the NAACP as an “anti-American” and “Communist” organization. Sessions said that he was not racist and that his comments were either misconstrued or meant as jokes, but the Judiciary Committee ultimately rejected him on a 9-9 vote.

Sessions was later elected to take the seat of one of the senators who opposed him. Prior to entering the Senate, Sessions was previously a U.S. Attorney in Alabama under Ronald Reagan, and the state’s Attorney General. He was also a Captain in the Army in the 1970s.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, CIA Director Nominee

Pompeo is a member of the tea party movement who was elected to the House in 2010. Previously, he served in the military as an Army Captain and worked in the aerospace and energy industries. He’s also a graduate of a Harvard Law School.

Pompeo is probably best known in Congress for his service on the House committee that investigated the Benghazi attacks. Pompeo and his colleague, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), released a separate report in addition to the main committee’s findings, that more aggressively faulted Hillary Clinton for failing to prevent the attacks and then "mis[leading] the public" about them.

Pompeo has also strongly opposed the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran, something that Trump criticized routinely on the campaign trail this year. In an op-ed for Fox News this summer, Pompeo argued that the deal has made America "less safe" and that “Congress must act to change Iranian behavior, and, ultimately, the Iranian regime” — pointing to a more interventionist policy than Trump has discussed on the campaign trail.

On privacy, Pompeo has staunchly defend the National Security Agency’s mass-surveillance program, including spying on friendly nations, saying that the agency is doing necessary and "important" work. He has also been highly critical of Edward Snowden. As The Atlantic noted, Pompeo argued in an op-ed earlier this year in favor of expanding the U.S.’s spying capabilities.

"Congress should pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata, and combining it with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database," Pompeo wrote.

Pompeo’s military experience and position on the House Intelligence Committee could prepare him for the CIA post. His official biography also notes that he graduated "first in his class from West Point."

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, National Security Adviser

Flynn is a retired and decorated Army Lieutenant General, who did tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan and worked in several intelligence positions in the U.S. military. Flynn, who is a registered Democrat, according to the New York Times, has advised Trump throughout the campaign and transition period on national security issues. He has joined Trump during his daily intelligence briefings since the campaign ended and as National Security Adviser, would be the president’s top adviser in the Situation Room and on issues of war and domestic safety.

Flynn also gave a speech at the Republican National Convention earlier this year.

Flynn was nominated by President Obama to head the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012, but resigned two years later. Anonymous Pentagon officials told The *Washington Pos*t at the time that Flynn was forced out because of his "chaotic" management style. But his supporters argue that the DIA was merely uncomfortable with someone coming in and trying to make real change.

Flynn "co-authored a scathing report" in 2010 “arguing that military intelligence was failing in Afghanistan, and largely irrelevant to the counterinsurgency campaign being waged there,” which brought him into national prominence, according to NBC News. His criticism of the Obama administration’s national security efforts in general have earned him a lot of praise among Republicans.

But Democrats have pushed back on Flynn’s nomination, arguing that he’s a loose cannon similar to Trump. They have pointed in particular to his controversial tweets during the campaign, including his statement that a "fear of Muslims is RATIONAL."

Those would be a top subject in a Senate confirmation hearing, but Trump is able to nominate whoever he’d like to serve as his National Security Adviser without input from other branches of government. So Democrats will have no say.

— Sarah Mimms


Written by Countable

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