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CIA pick hits Senate snag

Wed., Jan. 9, 2013

Graham threatens to delay nomination

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s choice of John Brennan to be the next CIA director hit a snag Tuesday as a Republican senator threatened to delay the nomination until the Obama administration provides answers on the deadly assault in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, whose opposition helped scuttle U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s hopes of becoming secretary of state, said the Senate should not confirm any Obama nominee for the nation’s top spy post until the administration elaborates on the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

“My support for a delay in confirmation is not directed at Mr. Brennan, but is an unfortunate, yet necessary, action to get information from this administration,” the South Carolina senator said in a statement. “I have tried – repeatedly – to get information on Benghazi, but my requests have been repeatedly ignored.”

Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for Graham, said late Tuesday that it’s possible the senator would put a “hold” on Brennan’s nomination, but the lawmaker hopes he doesn’t have to take that step. In his statement, Graham signaled that he would try to slow the nomination.

The White House dismissed the politicization of the issue and pressed for the Senate to act quickly and deliberately on Brennan’s nomination.

“It would be unfortunate, I think, if in pursuit of this issue, which was highly politicized, the Senate would hold up the nomination of John Brennan to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

An independent review board released an exhaustive report last month that found “systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels” of the State Department that led to inadequate security at the mission in Benghazi.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is likely to deliver her long-awaited testimony on Libya before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the week of Jan. 21. The State Department said the date hasn’t been finalized.

Carney pointed out that Obama pressed for swift confirmation of his national security nominees when he announced the selections Monday, and the administration hopes there are no unnecessary delays. He noted that the FBI is continuing its investigation of the attack, the independent review board issued a scathing report and Obama wants to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice.

“The president is focused on those issues, not what seems to be the continued political fascination with appearances on Sunday shows,” Carney said.

Brennan was expected to have an easier time on the path to Senate confirmation than Chuck Hagel, Obama’s choice to run the Pentagon. A handful of Republicans have announced opposition to their former GOP colleague, and several skeptical Democrats have reserved judgment until Hagel explains his views on Israel and Iran.

Brennan, a 25-year CIA veteran, is expected to be hit with questions about torture and administration leaks of secret information at his hearing, but is widely expected to win Senate confirmation. Graham’s demands on the Libya raid could stall the nomination.


 

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