Senate delays hearing to confirm Trump nominee for trade role

Senate delays hearing to confirm Trump nominee for trade role

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former Rep Darrell Issa speaks to journalists on Capitol Hill in Washington

By Andrea Shalal and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee abruptly postponed a hearing on Thursday to consider President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, former congressman Darrell Issa, after Democrats accused the White House of withholding problematic information.

The panel’s Republican chairman, Jim Risch, said consideration of Issa was postponed about half an hour into an acrimonious hearing.

Senator Bob Menendez, the committee’s ranking Democrat, said the White House had blocked access for all committee members to what he described as potentially embarrassing information on Issa.

“There is information in his FBI background investigation that concerns me greatly and that I believe members may find problematic, potentially disqualifying for Senate confirmation,” Menendez said.

Menendez said he had been given access to the FBI file but the White House had refused to make the information available to other members of the committee.

Senator Ben Cardin, another senior Democratic committee member, said it was only the latest case of the Trump administration breaking years of precedent by withholding information.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Issa, who was a House member from California for 18 years before retiring in January, was nominated by Trump for the trade post on Sept. 19, 2018 – exactly one year before the hearing.

Issa had said he was considering running for another House seat, the one now held by fellow Republican, Duncan Hunter, who faces trial in January on federal corruption and campaign finance charges.

In the House, Issa served as chairman of the Oversight Committee from 2011 to 2015, a position in which he became known for aggressive investigations of the administration of President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee Trump defeated in the 2016 presidential election.

Menendez said Risch had scheduled the hearing despite the Trump administration’s refusal to provide answers about both Issa and Matthew Billingslea, Trump’s nominee as undersecretary for civilian security, democracy, and human rights at the State Department.

During the hearing, committee members closely questioned Billingslea, the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for terrorist financing, about his involvement in special operations at the Defense Department during the administration former President George W. Bush.

Billingslea said he had opposed the use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, which are widely considered to be torture.

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Source : Reuters Link

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