Defense & Cyberspace

Senate Confirms Two Trump Nominees, But Democrats Delay CIA Director
Defense and Homeland Security nominees move right away

Rep. Mike Pompeo is the nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate moved quickly to confirm two of President Donald Trump’s key national security nominees, but there’s bad blood about Democratic objections to a third.

The confirmation of retired Gens. James Mattis to be Defense secretary and John Kelly to be Homeland Security secretary came immediately, but the Senate only voted to turn to the confirmation of Rep. Mike Pompeo to be the CIA Director, setting up a final vote late Monday.

Senate Panel to Probe Links Between Russia, Political Campaigns
Burr and Warner statement says committee will ‘follow the intelligence wherever it leads’

Vice chairman Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., left, and chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., confer before Tuesday’s hearing on Russian intelligence activities. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s inquiry into Russian intelligence operations against the United States will investigate any possible links between Russia and American political campaigns, the panel said Friday.

The bipartisan investigation will also include a review of the American intelligence agencies’ assessment of what they say was Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including cyberattacks and other so-called active measures.

Ep. 36: Spooked by Russia
The Week Ahead

CQ Roll Call’s intelligence reporter Ryan Lucas separates fact from fiction on all the Russia-related reports that have thrown the nation’s capital into a tizzy. 

Pelosi Calls for Investigation Into Trump's Ties to Russia
’This is an issue that is great deal of interest to the American people,’ House minority leader says

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wants an investigation in to President-elect Donald Trump’s ties with Russia. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Friday called for an investigation into any ties Donald Trump has with Russia and whether the Kremlin has any compromising information on the president elect. 

“We want our agencies of government to investigate what those connections are and hopefully resolve it in our favor,” the California Democrat told reporters at her weekly news briefing. 

House Homeland Panels Agree to Coordinate Oversight

House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, speaks during the House Republican leaders' media availability immediately after the Republican Conference meeting on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

All of the House committees with jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security have for the first time agreed they will begin coordinating their oversight functions with the aim of producing an annual policy bill that would govern the department’s nearly two dozen agencies.

Chairmen of eight House committees signed a memorandum of understanding pledging to coordinate with the House Homeland Security Committee “to produce a comprehensive authorization bill for the department,” according to a copy of the agreement obtained by CQ. The agreement will be entered into the Congressional Record Thursday.

In Break from Trump, Mattis Pushes for Tough Stance on Russia

Secretary of Defense nominee James Mattis testifies during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

James Mattis, Donald Trump’s choice for Defense secretary, advocated several shifts in U.S. national security policy in his confirmation hearing Thursday, including a much tougher stance on Russia than the president-elect has articulated.

On several topics during his Senate Armed Services testimony, the retired Marine Corps four-star general differed in substance or tone from positions Trump took in the campaign. Unless Trump or Mattis changes his view, the contrasts could lead to tensions between the White House and the Pentagon.

Tillerson Grilled on Russia at Confirmation Hearing
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle pose questions about sanctions

Secretary of State-designee Rex Tillerson arrives for his confirmation hearing on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Secretary of State-designee Rex Tillerson faced questions on Russia throughout a lengthy confirmation hearing Wednesday, but the most aggressive exchange came from a Republican senator who could sink his nomination in committee: Marco Rubio.

At the Senate Foreign Relations hearing, the fast-talking Floridian and former presidential candidate grilled the former Exxon Mobil CEO on sanctions against Russia and whether Russian president Vladimir Putin was a war criminal who murders his political opponents.

VA Health Chief Shulkin Picked by Trump for VA Secretary

President-elect Donald Trump announced Wednesday his pick for Veterans Affairs secretary, David J. Shulkin. (Courtesy Veterans Health/Flickr)

President-elect Donald Trump said Wednesday he will tap David J. Shulkin, who is now head of the Veterans Health Administration, to be secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The president-elect said “at least” 100 interviews were conducted for the top job to lead the troubled agency that has struggled to deliver care to veterans at a time of increased demand and budgetary pressure.

Kremlin Calls Reports It ‘Compromised’ Trump ‘Total Nonsense’
Trump tweets support for Kremlin’s response, says he has nothing to do with Russia

President-elect Donald Trump backed up the Russian government's attempts to swat down reports saying it had compromising information on him. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Kremlin said Wednesday reports that the Russian government had assembled a file of compromising information about President-elect Donald Trump was “total nonsense.”

“It is an attempt to damage our bilateral relations. It is pulp fiction,” Reuters reported Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

Trump Facing Questions on Whether Russian Intel ‘Cultivated’ Him
President-elect, via Twitter, calls reports ’fake news’

A purported appendix to a U.S. intelligence assessment concluded that President-elect Donald Trump and his inner circle accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Here’s a question President-elect Donald Trump likely did not expect to be asked Wednesday during his first post-election press conference: Have you been “cultivated” by Russian intelligence for half a decade?

What was shaping up as a question-and-answer session about his business dealings, Cabinet picks, potential conflicts of interest involving his family and senior aides and repealing the 2010 health care law got an added wrinkle Tuesday evening.

Senators Warn Tillerson About Backing New Russia Sanctions
Secretary of State nominee will face questions about Russian hacking Wednesday

Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin, John McCain and Lindsey Graham attended a news conference in the Capitol to introduce a bipartisan bill increasing sanctions on Russia.(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson might face hurdles to getting confirmed if he does not back a bipartisan plan to impose new sanctions on the Russian Federation.

Foreign Relations Ranking Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland led a bipartisan group of 10 senators in introducing expanded Russian sanctions legislation Tuesday in response to what the intelligence community has concluded was Kremlin hacking of the Democratic National Committee and military actions including the incursion into Ukraine.

Defense Bill Gives State Department More Authority to Oversee Security Aid

For years, Congress nudged the State Department toward the sidelines of the foreign security assistance game while giving the Pentagon more authority to provide weapons and training to allies and partners. Now, for the first time in decades, lawmakers are putting diplomats back in the middle of the action.

The annual Pentagon policy bill, which President Barack Obama signed into law last month, gives Foggy Bottom greater oversight over security assistance programs and also requires the Pentagon be more transparent about and closely track the tens of billions of dollars it provides annually to security forces in more than 100 countries.

Kelly Says He'll Quit Advisory Positions with Defense Contractors

Retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly has pledged to quit advisory and board member roles with defense contractors and consulting firms if he is confirmed as Homeland Security secretary, according to disclosures filed with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. 

Kelly appears before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for his confirmation hearing Tuesday afternoon.

Panel Sets Vote on Waiving Waiting Period for Mattis

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis was tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to head the Defense Department. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Armed Services Committee plans to vote this week on whether to exempt Donald Trump’s Defense secretary nominee from the standard waiting period for former military officers chosen to run the Pentagon.

The committee is expected to vote Jan. 12 to approve legislation that would permit the nominee, retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, to be confirmed by the Senate under expedited procedures.

Atomic Arsenal Costs Ballooning by Billions of Dollars

California’s Dianne Feinstein, ranking Senate Democrat on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, talks with a reporter in Senate subway before the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol, September 13, 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

America’s nuclear arsenal is getting billions of dollars more expensive with each passing year, the Obama administration said in a recent report to Congress obtained by CQ.

The report shows how nuclear weapons costs are beginning to crest as the Pentagon and the Energy Department move into a $1 trillion modernization effort over the next three decades. It is the biggest looming issue in the defense budget.