EXECUTIVE SESSION; Congressional Record Vol. 164, No. 73
(Senate - May 07, 2018)

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[Pages S2507-S2510]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                           EXECUTIVE SESSION


                           EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will 
proceed to executive session and resume consideration of the following 
nomination, which the clerk will report.
  The bill clerk read the nomination of Kurt D. Engelhardt, of 
Louisiana, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority whip.
  Mr. CORNYN. Madam President, one of the items on our to-do list is 
continuing to confirm the President's nominees, which have faced an 
unprecedented level of obstruction and downright foot-dragging. It is 
maddening to

[[Page S2508]]

see our Democratic colleagues insisting that we go through all the 
motions and the time limits set out in the rules, when nominees are 
confirmed 99 to 1 or 100 to 0. In other words, these are not 
controversial nominees, in many cases, and there is simply no reason to 
drag their feet and to prevent the Senate from doing other important 
work, including confirming more nominees.

                       Nomination of Gina Haspel

  We will certainly be revisiting that issue more in the coming days, 
but one of the important positions we are going to be taking up this 
week is Gina Haspel, who has been nominated to be Director of the 
Central Intelligence Agency. Her confirmation hearing will be before 
the Senate Intelligence Committee this Wednesday. I will proudly 
support her to be the first female CIA Director in our Nation's 
history--certainly not for that reason alone but because she is an 
outstanding nominee.
  I hope our colleagues and their ideological soulmates across the 
aisle will cease and desist from untruthful attacks on this talented, 
well-respected woman who is much revered by her fellow professionals in 
the intelligence community.
  I still have a hard time accepting the treatment that Dr. Jackson 
received before he was even allowed to defend himself against the 
accusations made against him during his nomination process for head of 
the Veterans' Administration. I think, when people realize their 
reputation that they worked all their lives to achieve is subject to 
being torn down by reckless and untruthful attacks, it discourages good 
people from wanting to serve in the U.S. Government. That is our loss 
and not just theirs.
  I think it is important for the country's women to see someone like 
Ms. Haspel leading an agency as vital to our national security as the 
CIA. Women everywhere will be watching this week, and Democrats should 
show them that ambition, good character, and hard work are always 
welcome and rewarded in the upper echelons of the U.S. Government.
  The CIA is not a partisan agency, but some partisans are endangering 
our national security to treat it as such when they oppose Ms. Haspel's 
nomination largely on ideological grounds, with scant attention being 
paid to the circumstances and the difficult decisions that had to be 
made immediately following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
  In Ms. Haspel's case, we have the benefit of the fact that she served 
not just for a short period of time--not just in the post-9/11 world--
but, literally, for 33 years. We also have the challenge of knowing 
that a lot of her activities on behalf of the U.S. Government and in 
defense of our national security were classified. They cannot be 
publicly disclosed without risking lives, and, certainly, they cannot 
disclose the methods and the sources by which that information is 
obtained for the intelligence community so they can then present it to 
the policymakers here in Washington.
  We do know Ms. Haspel joined the CIA in 1985, during the final years 
of the Cold War. She is a career intelligence officer and has served 
more than 30 years, both overseas and here in Washington. She has held 
various leadership roles, including Deputy Director of the National 
Clandestine Service. She has worked in the Counterterrorism Center, 
where her first day of work was--you guessed it--September 11, 2001, 
the day the Twin Towers fell, the Pentagon was attacked, and 
approximately 3,000 Americans lost their lives.
  Throughout her career, Ms. Haspel has held some of the most demanding 
assignments in far-off reaches of the globe--places like Africa and the 
Middle East, which she did not seek out but which she took because she 
saw them as her duty. That is exactly the kind of person we need 
leading the Central Intelligence Agency--someone who sees that as their 
  She has received numerous awards which lend credence to her 
reputation and illustrate that other accomplished professionals hold 
her in high regard. These awards include the Presidential Rank Award, 
the most prestigious award in the Federal civil service. She also 
received the Intelligence Medal of Merit, and several others.
  Her integrity and professionalism are beyond question. Those who know 
her best, including high-ranking Obama-era officials, are behind her 
100 percent. For example, former Director of National Intelligence 
James Clapper said he ``think[s] the world of [Ms. Haspel]. She is 
capable, smart, very experienced, well respected by the Agency rank and 
file, and is a great person.''
  Leon Panetta, who was former Chief of Staff to Bill Clinton when he 
was President, served as CIA Director and then Secretary of Defense, 
says that he is ``glad that [we'll] have a first woman as [the] head of 
[the] CIA'' and that Ms. Haspel ``knows the CIA inside out.''
  Former CIA Director John Brennan, who also worked under President 
Obama, has cited her ability to ``provide unvarnished, apolitical, 
objective intelligence to [President] Trump and to others.''
  Earlier this spring, 53 former senior U.S. officials sent the Senate 
Select Committee on Intelligence a letter in which they expressed their 
wholehearted support of Ms. Haspel. This group includes people like 
Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former Attorney 
General Michael Mukasey, and many other distinguished Americans.
  Now we know, because of what has been reported in the paper by the 
so-called nameless, faceless sources, that some have sought to distort 
and twist the historical record regarding the decisions that she and 
other intelligence officials had to make in the post-9/11 world. I just 
happened to pick up an account. This is called ``Manhunt'' by Peter 
Bergen. It is a New York Times best seller. He talks about the 10-year 
search for Osama bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad. I think he provides 
useful context, talking about what the environment was here in 
Washington and in this country after the terrible attacks of 9/11. He 

       The urgency of finding bin Laden was underlined when the 
     CIA discovered that he had met with retired Pakistani nuclear 
     scientists during the summer of 2001 to discuss the 
     possibility of al Qaeda developing a nuclear device. General 
     Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, says that 
     six weeks after 9/11, Bush told a meeting of his National 
     Security Council that bin Laden ``may have a nuclear device'' 
     big enough to destroy half of Washington. In fact, al Qaeda 
     had nothing of the sort, but in the panicked aftermath of 9/
     11, such a threat could not be easily discounted.

  Thankfully, while there did not prove to be any credence to the 
allegation that al-Qaida had potentially acquired a nuclear device that 
could destroy half of Washington, DC, it just helps us to think back 
about what the environment was and why it was so important to have 
professionals like Gina Haspel and others doing their job in accordance 
with the rule of law and trying their best to keep our country safe.
  One of the most ironic complaints by opponents of this nomination is 
that they don't have enough information about Ms. Haspel and say she 
has hidden behind a wall of secrecy. Well, for somebody who has been 
involved as an intelligence officer in some of the most sensitive, 
secret, classified work on behalf of the U.S. Government for the last 
33 years or so, what do they expect? The Agency has done a number of 
things to try to declassify some information through the Office of the 
Director of National Intelligence in order to give us some flavor and 
context to her background and her history, but it is ridiculous to 
expect somebody who has served their whole professional life in the 
clandestine service to have a public record that we could talk about in 
an unclassified setting.
  At least organizations like the New York Times believe that ``Ms. 
Haspel . . . is a known quantity in the CIA,'' who ``knows how to run 
intelligence operations.'' She is seen in the Agency ``as having 
loyally followed lawful orders'' during the relevant period of time.
  The other thing you hear are questions that have been repeated ad 
nauseam about some interrogation tactics used in the early days in the 
War on Terror, when our Nation was bracing itself for additional mass 
casualty terrorist attacks like the one I mentioned that President Bush 
feared if al-Qaida had gotten its hands on a nuclear device. The fact 
is, these questions have already been asked and answered and this is 
another rehash.
  The program was investigated twice by career lawyers at the Justice 
Department--one under President Bush

[[Page S2509]]

and the other under President Obama. Those career lawyers, who have no 
partisan gain to make one way or the other, concluded both times that 
criminal charges were not warranted. Furthermore, the Justice 
Department, under President Obama, and multiple Federal courts have 
credited the work done overseas and the intelligence gained there as 
keeping our country safer.
  I know we often talk about connecting the dots, but that is what 
intelligence operations do frequently. They get discrete pieces of 
information and try to put it together to paint a picture in order to 
understand what our adversaries around the world are trying to do. She 
was part of collecting those dots to create a picture to help inform 
the policy decisions being made by the President and Members of the 
  Finally, you will hear people talk about the destruction of 
videotapes of detainees, but the fact is, the so-called Morrell memo 
that was recently declassified provided the sort of transparency I 
think we would all want. It essentially exonerated Ms. Haspel of any 
wrongdoing regarding her supervisor's decision in 2005--not her 
decision--to destroy videotapes of interrogations. In it, Mr. Morrell 

       I have found no fault with the performance of Ms. Haspel. I 
     have concluded that she acted appropriately in her role.

  You can't get much clearer than that.
  As our colleague, the junior Senator from Arkansas, has said, Haspel 
did not go rogue or make these policies on the fly. She dutifully 
executed the approved policy as determined by the Department of 
Justice, and she did so at one of the most dangerous moments in our 
history. That is precisely what our Nation asked of her, and that is 
exactly what she did.
  Former CIA National Clandestine Service Director John Bennett has 
gone further, calling her ``one of the most accomplished officers of 
her generation,'' which is high praise indeed.
  Maybe former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it best. She 

       If you were not in a position of authority on September 
     11th, you have no idea the pressures that we faced to try to 
     make sure that this country wasn't attacked again. Walk a 
     mile in our shoes and you'll understand some of the things 
     that we've dealt with.

  I would ask our colleagues to do just that. Walk a mile in Ms. 
Haspel's shoes as an intelligence officer who was sworn to defend the 
country, to use every lawful means in order to keep our country safe, 
and to remember 9/11 and the terrifying aftermath was the environment 
she and other people in the U.S. Government had to operate in with 
advice from the highest levels of legal advice provided by the Office 
of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice.
  Finally, let me just say what a horrible message it would send to 
other patriots who feel the call to serve to not swiftly confirm Gina 
Haspel. What a horrible message it would send to other intelligence 
officers who follow lawful orders and protect our country on a daily 
basis. It would likely make the CIA more risk averse and, in turn, put 
more American lives in danger.
  Based on recent news reports, we know this past week Ms. Haspel even 
considered withdrawing her name from consideration because she feels 
such fierce loyalty to the CIA that she doesn't want any political 
theater staged during the confirmation hearing to tarnish the Agency's 
reputation. That is exactly the type of person she is--putting our 
Nation's security and her fellow intelligence officers before her own 
career advancement. I am glad she has reconsidered, and she is willing 
to fight the fight and stay to the end and be nominated and confirmed 
as Director of the CIA. I, for one, am glad Ms. Haspel decided to not 
back down based on intimidation tactics and unsubstantiated rumors and 
  We have seen one Trump nominee get unfairly smeared by half-truths 
and innuendo and hearsay, and we can't let that happen again.
  Ms. Haspel didn't ask for this fight, but if that is what it takes to 
get America the best and most well-qualified person to lead the CIA, we 
are more than willing to wage--and to win--that fight for her and the 
rest of the country.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Florida.

                          Puerto Rico Recovery

  Mr. NELSON. Madam President, I have just returned from Puerto Rico. I 
went there at the invitation of Governor Rossello. I spent time with 
his Secretary of Housing. I spent time with members of his executive 
  I went up into the mountains to a city named ``Las Piedras,'' a city 
of some 30,000 people. According to the mayor, who took me around and 
showed me a number of the residential neighborhoods, 30 percent of that 
city does not have electricity.
  It has been 8 months since the two hurricanes--first Maria and then 
Irma--hit the island of Puerto Rico, our fellow U.S. citizens. There 
are still major parts of the island that do not have electricity.
  In this town of 30,000 people, you go to different locations, and in 
one particular location farther up in the mountains, there is no 
  I asked the residents: How are you coping? What do you do?
  They had a generator, but because of the shortage of fuel and the 
cost of fuel, they can't run the generator all the time. Basically, 
they use it for necessities, such as cooking and other chores during 
the day. Therefore, they have no refrigeration.
  I asked: What do you do?
  They showed me. A fellow had just come from the grocery store down 
the mountain. Every day, they have to go get their groceries that are 
perishable and cook them and consume them that day because they do not 
have refrigeration. This is 8 months after the hurricane. Can you 
imagine that happening in any of our States on the mainland? Can you 
imagine the degree of anger and insistence that there be a full 
recovery? Yet this is happening to fellow U.S. citizens on the island 
of Puerto Rico.
  They are coping. They are a very industrious and inventive people. As 
they recover, they are looking at new ways instead of just relying on 
what in the past has been a dilapidated electrical grid. Tesla has come 
in. I inspected this pilot project up on top of the mountain. It is an 
array of solar cells--the most efficient that have been produced--and 
that array of solar panels is supplying electricity full time to 12 
houses up on the mountain. We need more of that. We need more of that 
as a backup to the electrical grid and in some cases a replacement for 
the electrical grid since it has been so unreliable in the past.
  I wanted to bring this report to the Senate. Puerto Rico will make 
it. Although jobs are scarce, although many thousands have fled to the 
mainland to stay with relatives, although many of those I met--thank 
goodness FEMA extended the temporary housing assistance to get those 
families through the end of the school year, as their children would 
have been uprooted in the middle of final exams and their graduations 
would have been disrupted had that temporary assistance not been 
extended through the end of June. Many of them want to go back, but 
there is no job to go back to, and there is a home that is now 
completely filled with mold and mildew. So what do they have to return 
to? I think we will see some number of them make their new life on the 
mainland. Many of those, of course, have come to my State of Florida.
  My report to the Senate is that we have to do more. The Army Corps of 
Engineers has to keep pressing on with rebuilding the electrical grid. 
We must also go out and try to set up as many alternate electricity 
projects--like Tesla--as we can, and hopefully we will see some return 
to normalcy. You would have thought that 8 months after a hurricane, 
that would have already occurred. It has not, and I am sad to report 
this to the Senate.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Moran). Without objection, it is so 
  Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, in a few minutes we are going to be 
voting on President Trump's nomination of

[[Page S2510]]

Mr. Kurt Engelhardt to be a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 
Fifth Circuit, and I can't think of a nominee who is more deserving and 
more qualified for this job.
  Judge Engelhardt is the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for 
the Eastern District of Louisiana. He has been on the Federal district 
court bench for 17 years. If you add up all of the cases he has 
actually tried to verdict or to judgment, I think it is somewhere in 
the neighborhood of 75 to 100. That is on top of hundreds--undoubtedly, 
thousands--of motions that he has heard. He is eminently qualified. 
Yet, rather than recite his resume, I wish to share a personal 
experience that I had in Judge Engelhardt's court.
  A number of years ago, the city of New Orleans sued a major Wall 
Street investment bank in a dispute over a $171 million bond issue. The 
bonds are called pension obligation bonds, and it is an extraordinarily 
complex transaction. I was called as a witness because, at that point 
in my life, I was the State treasurer of Louisiana and the chairman of 
the State bond commission, and we had jurisdiction over the bonds when 
they were issued.
  I was not exactly sure whether I was a fact witness or an expert 
witness, and the lawyers fought over that for a while. My point is that 
I was on the stand for, maybe, 5 hours, 6 hours, and I got to observe a 
little bit about the case and about Judge Engelhardt.
  The plaintiffs' counsel, who represented the city of New Orleans and 
the firefighters' pension system, were a handful of the finest lawyers 
in the State of Louisiana--indeed, I would say, in the country. A 
partner and number of associates from a major Wall Street law firm 
represented the Wall Street investment bank. In addition to their 
lawyers, there were dozens of clerks and associates and paralegals, who 
made it look like Bourbon Street on Saturday night because there were 
so many people. I remember thinking how many thousands and thousands 
and thousands of hours these lawyers and paralegals and clerks had 
spent in understanding this case. One could tell very quickly that both 
sides--both sets of lawyers--knew this case backward and forward and 
had almost memorized the depositions.
  As a lawyer, it was fun for me to watch as they were going at it 
hammer and tongs. I mean, they could recite chapter and verse from the 
legal briefs, from the law books, from the depositions. Yet there was 
one person in that courtroom, among all of these accomplished 
professionals, who knew more about the case than anybody else. He was 
the presiding judge--Kurt Engelhardt. He had total command of the 
subject matter. That was not easy, as this was a very complex municipal 
securities offering. He had total command of the courtroom.
  With both sets of lawyers being aggressive, accomplished litigators, 
they tested him quite often. That is what good lawyers do. They will 
push the envelope. He maintained firm control without ever raising his 
voice, and I got to watch him in operation for 5 or 6 hours. I had 
never been in his courtroom before, but after watching Judge Engelhardt 
in operation, I understood why just about every lawyer in Louisiana who 
files a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of 
Louisiana hopes that he or she will get Judge Engelhardt for the judge, 
because he is that good. The only group of lawyers I know who hopes it 
doesn't get Judge Engelhardt for a judge in the U.S. District Court for 
the Eastern District of Louisiana is made up of those who are 
unprepared or who don't know their cases, because he is not going to 
tolerate the court's time being wasted.
  For that reason, I am proud to stand here today, along with my 
colleague, the senior Senator from Louisiana, Bill Cassidy, and 
recommend categorically and unequivocally--unconditionally--to my 
colleagues the nomination of Judge Kurt Engelhardt to be a member of 
the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He will serve us 
proudly and well.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. ROBERTS. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

                             Cloture Motion

  Pursuant to rule XXII, the Chair lays before the Senate the pending 
cloture motion, which the clerk will state.
  The legislative clerk read as follows:

                             Cloture Motion

       We, the undersigned Senators, in accordance with the 
     provisions of rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate, 
     do hereby move to bring to a close debate on the nomination 
     of Kurt D. Engelhardt, of Louisiana, to be United States 
     Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit.
         Mitch McConnell, Jerry Moran, John Cornyn, John Hoeven, 
           John Kennedy, Johnny Isakson, Chuck Grassley, Cory 
           Gardner, James E. Risch, Thom Tillis, Pat Roberts, 
           David Perdue, Mike Rounds, Roy Blunt, Richard Burr, 
           John Thune, Tom Cotton.

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. By unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum 
call has been waived.
  The question is, Is it the sense of the Senate that debate on the 
nomination of Kurt D. Engelhardt, of Louisiana, to be United States 
Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit, shall be brought to a close?
  The yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk called the roll.
  Mr. CORNYN. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the 
Senator from South Carolina (Mr. Graham), the Senator from Georgia (Mr. 
Isakson), and the Senator from Arizona (Mr. McCain).
  Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from Illinois (Ms. Duckworth) 
and the Senator from Oregon (Mr. Merkley) are necessarily absent.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Lankford). Are there any other Senators in 
the Chamber desiring to vote?
  The yeas and nays resulted--yeas 64, nays 31, as follows:

                       [Rollcall Vote No. 86 Ex.]




     Cortez Masto
     Van Hollen

                             NOT VOTING--5

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. On this vote, the yeas are 64, the nays are 
  The motion is agreed to.
  The majority leader.