Sen. Rand Paul vows to oppose Trump pick for CIA, but admits he "doesn't have the power" to block nomination

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, says he plans to "do everything to stop" the confirmation of President Trump's picks for secretary of state and CIA director, but conceded that he doesn't have the power to stop them. Paul opposes the nomination of Gina Haspel, the current deputy director of the CIA and Mr. Trump's choice to head the agency, over concerns about her involvement in the CIA's interrogation program in the early 2000s. 

"There's enough votes. She'll eventually win. But there are a few things in life where it is worth standing up and saying, 'Enough is enough. This is wrong. This is, you know, this is beneath contempt,'" Paul said on CBS News' "Face the Nation." 

Haspel has been tapped by Mr. Trump to replace the outgoing CIA director, Mike Pompeo, who is set to be nominated as secretary of state following the dismissal of Rex Tillerson.

Paul expressed concern with Haspel's record as being a career spymaster who once ran a CIA prison in Thailand. Haspel carried out an order to destroy videotapes of detainees being waterboarded at the site.

"We are not a people that should be so fearful or so vengeful that we think that torture is somehow acceptable. On what level could torture ever be acceptable?" Paul questioned. 

He added, "She should never leave the CIA. And one other reason is, they have such enormous power to destroy lives. They can listen to all the phone conversations of the world, they can assassinate people with drones. We should not have someone at the top who has actually been an advocate of or a participant in torture."

Details of Haspel's history of overseeing a CIA "black site" at the time that al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah was being interrogated was later corrected after reporting by ProPublica. She did not become the chief of base at the Thailand black site until after Zubaydah's interrogation had ended, nor did she mock him during a waterboarding session as previously reported in a story published by ProPublica in Feb. 2017. 

On Thursday evening, the news site retracted the story, which it said was based on declassified agency cables and CIA-reviewed books. The CIA is now looking declassifying the details of exactly what Haspel's job was.

"I think there's got to be plenty of good people at the CIA who weren't involved with torture and really we, you know, we're supposed to be the symbol of hope for the world and people who want freedom from totalitarianism," said Paul. 

Paul was also critical of Pompeo's bellicose rhetoric toward Iran, saying, "You want a diplomat in charge of the State Department, not someone who's advocating for war."

"I think the lesson of the Iraq War was that there are unintended consequences from regime change. And so I don't think somebody being the head of secretary of state who wants regime change in Iran is a good thing or wants regime change in North Korea," said Paul. 

He added that as of right now, he "can't vote for Pompeo."

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital