President Trump’s decision to fire Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday had members of Maine’s congressional delegation focusing on his replacement, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and the challenges he will face from Russia and North Korea if he is confirmed by the Senate.

Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, also voiced concern about Pompeo’s replacement at the CIA, Deputy Director Gina Haspel, given her involvement in the agency’s rendition, detention and interrogation program in the 2000s. Between 2003 and 2005, she oversaw a secret CIA prison in Thailand where terror suspects Abu Zubayadah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri were waterboarded, current and former U.S. intelligence officials told the Associated Press. If confirmed by the Senate, Haspel would become the first woman to lead the agency.

“As a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I hope that she will address her role in that program during her confirmation hearing before our committee,” King said.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who also serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Pompeo’s tenure at the CIA helped prepare the former Republican congressman from California for the challenges he will face at the State Department if he is confirmed.

“The next secretary of state faces a number of pressing challenges abroad, particularly Russia and North Korea,” Collins said. “Through his leadership of the CIA over the past year, Director Pompeo is well aware of these challenges, and I look forward to his confirmation hearing in April.”

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, said the Senate confirmation process for Pompeo should be “vigorous.”

“He must be asked whether he will put our nation’s interests above loyalty oaths to the president’s personal agenda,” Pingree said in a prepared statement. “As the head of the CIA, he said that it’s certain Russia will attack America again. If confirmed as secretary of state, Director Pompeo must be ready to take a firm line with Vladimir Putin and ensure that the threat Russia poses to our democracy is swiftly addressed.”

Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, issued a statement wishing Pompeo well.

“I know Mike Pompeo from our time serving in the House of Representatives together and wish him the best of luck in this new and important role,” Poliquin said.

Poliquin also echoed King’s position that Trump has the right to choose who serves in his Cabinet.

“The president has the right to appoint the Cabinet that reflects his priorities, and to dismiss those who don’t meet his expectations – it’s his Cabinet,” King said. “However, the Senate also has a role to play in this process, and I will carefully evaluate the nominations of Director Pompeo and Deputy Director Haspel as a part of that role.”

Pingree was critical of the way Trump fired Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, in a tweet and announced plans to replace him with Pompeo.

“Rex Tillerson’s short tenure as secretary of state was marked by the departure of experienced professionals and low morale; however, he was a grown-up in the president’s Cabinet and one of the few voices in the Trump administration taking a hard line with Russia,” Pingree said in her statement. “It’s disappointing that the president has made a habit of firing the nation’s highest-ranking officials in the most demoralizing ways possible – causing unnecessary chaos, demonstrating his poor leadership, and sending the message that no one is truly a respected member of his administration.”

Contact Scott Thistle at 713-6720 or at:

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