The controversy over securing Gina Haspel as the new CIA director has been over her involvement in a torture program during the Bush administration. This week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) sent a letter to Haspel as part of the confirmation process asking her what the CIA knew when they were surveilling the Trump team during the 2016 presidential campaign. On the surface, it looks like another Republican attacking the intelligence agency but, the letter reveals that Sen. Paul may actually want more information on the Trump-Russia relationship.
First, let’s thin out the controversy of Haspel and her involvement in the torture program and say that no one should ever believe in the fake outrage that comes from Republicans over what they refer to as Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, just like no one should ever believe that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) ever really opposed President Trump’s health care plan on the Senate floor. But, much like that issue, Rand Paul appears to be a more complicated figure when we should expect, for him to fall on party lines.
The beginning of Republican attacks on the justice and intelligence community
Following in the tradition of Trump’s attacks against laws he doesn’t like and law enforcement investigating him, a growing number of Republicans have turned against the Department of Justice and the Central Intelligence Agency for doing just that. This has mostly been instigated by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA.) who last year, falsely claimed that he had been given classified intel showing that the FISA court had authorized surveillance of the Trump team and in the process, unmasked the names of private citizens.
Fake outrage followed, mostly from Nunes, suggesting that the CIA had violated the privacy of those then-private citizens and used that accusation to mobilize attacks against the intel community. This was initially instigated by President Trump who claimed right out that the Obama administration had wired Trump Tower and spied on him.
The accusation incited a back and forth between Nunes leading the House Intelligence Committee and the White House to turn over evidence of that claim. At some point, The Daily Beast reported that Nunes went for a ‘midnight run’ to meet up with two mysterious people at the White House, who gave him intel on the claim. It was later learned by The New York Times that those two people were Ezra Cohen-Watnick and Michael Ellis, but the Atlantic also published an excellent breakdown on that incident and cited the NY Times.
Rand Paul Is not immune to the spread of Trumpism
We can also go back to the beginning when Trumpism started infecting a Republican-led Congress in the House of Representatives last May, in order to force votes to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA) to the Senate. The legislative process didn’t (and still doesn’t) matter to the Trump White House, who threatened lawmakers if they didn’t vote to repeal and replace Obamacare fast. The President just wanted an immediate win despite the Trumpcare bill being greatly flawed, which was immediately rejected by the Senate, who it seemed still held to some standard, deciding to create their own doomed health care bill instead.
Since then, some Trumpism has infected Senate Republicans as well but It would seem that for now, Sen. Rand Paul is immune from this infection and in his letter to Haspel, he asks if she or anyone else at the CIA had ever cooperated with any foreign intelligence services to surveil, monitor, or collect any information on Candidate Trump during his travels outside the United States, in the preceding five years before the 2016 election. More specifically, he wants to know if candidate Trump was ever under any surveillance or of interest to the CIA during his previous visits to Europe.
Another attack against the CIA
The questions that the Kentucky senator has, much like Nunes, appear to be dancing around the idea that the CIA was surveilling a presidential candidate, but with the questions being specific to a period that precedes his candidacy. While the request isn’t as specific as to the timeline for that request, it could be suggested that his request for that surveillance goes back as far as 2010. With the then-private citizen, pre-candidate Trump, who was traveling around the globe and meeting with high-level Russians on a crusade against President Obama, showing no signs that he would run for the highest office in the land, it certainly makes sense that he would be a solid surveillance target.
Of course, Republicans questioning that authorization shows that they’re indeed willing to question that authority if it means providing cover for Trump. Sen. Rand Paul is certainly a moving target when it comes to ideologically pinning him down along with his fellow, treasonous Republicans. But again, we show that it’s wrong to suggest that even Rand Paul is immune from Trumpism in the Trump era because, in an interview with Fox News about his letter, the now-Trumpublican senator says that his concern is that Gina Haspel is a partisan and a Trump hater, revealing that his letter is, in fact, another effort to help Republicans provide more cover for Trump.