Here's How Democrats Could Stop Trump's Pro-Torture Appointees

Current CIA director Mike Pompeo is President Donald Trump's pick to be the next secretary of state. He has also, in the past, been a defender of torture. Of course, he didn't call it torture. The Bush-era euphemism for brutal assaults like waterboarding was "enhanced interrogation techniques." But the linguistic debate about these techniques never masked the torment they inflicted, and everyone knows that.


Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is prepared to make a stand against Pompeo for his support of torture. If Democrats are prepared to join Paul, they could succeed in scuttling the nomination entirely. That's because Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is both very ill and deeply opposed to torture—meaning he may also oppose the nomination, or he may miss the vote entirely due to his health.

Without Paul and McCain, the rest of the Republican senators would be unable to overcome a unified Democratic caucus and push the nomination through. Unfortunately, Democrats do not appear unified on this front. 

Paul also plans to oppose Gina Haspel's nomination for CIA director for her past support for and participation in torture.

Opposing these nominations would be an enormously important stand on principle. Though Pompeo denied in his 2017 confirmation hearing that he would use any now-outlawed torture methods, he was blatantly dishonest when he said he could not imagine Trump asking him to use these techniques. Trump has frequently endorsed torture and other war crimes.

With Rex Tillerson being forced out of the State Department and rumors that national security adviser H.R. McMaster may soon resign, many of the apparently moderating voices around Trump may soon be gone. If the country ends up in a war or the victim of a massive terrorist attack, and Pompeo and Haspel are the ones guiding Trump, can anyone really be confident that they won't bring torture back?

If Trump and his allies do end up reviving the U.S. torture programs and Democrats support nominees who previously endorsed these policies, Democrats will share in the blame. 

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