Hagerty: Biden’s Pentagon Nominee Colin Kahl Needs to Address If He Leaked Classified Info

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 16: Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) leaves the weekly Senate Republican caucus luncheon in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill March 16, 2021 in Washington, DC. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warned Senate Democrats not to abolish the filibuster, saying that he would use …
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Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) said in a letter on Tuesday he still not received answers to his questions on whether President Joe Biden’s nominee for the No. 3 position at the Pentagon, Colin Kahl, leaked classified information in 2017, and Hagerty urged the Senate Armed Services Committee not to advance his nomination.

“Given the highly sensitive nature of the position for which Mr. Kahl has been nominated, I strongly urge SASC not to advance this nominee until he provides an explanation for these extremely concerning disclosures,” Hagerty wrote to SASC Chairman Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-OK).

In a letter five days ago, Hagerty wrote Reed and Inhofe, requesting that they seek answers to whether or not Kahl leaked classified information when he tweeted potentially classified information in February and March 2017 about the Trump administration’s internal processes, solicited from friends who still worked in the White House.

Hagerty said in his letter Tuesday:

It has been five days since I raised these previously overlooked tweets, and the lack of a response demonstrates one of two things: either a complete disregard for the Senate’s advice-and-consent role, or there is simply no explanation for Mr. Kahl’s reckless disregard for the proper handling of sensitive national security information both of which would be disqualifying. If the Biden Administration stands behind this nominee, whom I believe has repeatedly shown poor judgment and ill temperament, then it should urge him to respond to the committee immediately.

Despite ignoring Hagerty’s letter, SASC appeared to be poised to vote on Kahl’s nomination on Wednesday, according to CNN. If the committee votes to advance his nomination, the full Senate will vote on whether to confirm him.

But despite the scheduled vote, Kahl’s confirmation is far from certain. Inhofe has indicated he would not vote for Kahl, as did other Republicans on the committee. They have cited his partisan tweets, such as one that said the Republican Party was the “party of ethnic cleansing.”

Republicans also oppose him for his role in working on the Iran nuclear deal when he served in the Obama administration as Biden’s national security adviser.

Some Democrats have also expressed reservations about Kahl. On Tuesday, Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) said they would not confirm any more non-minority Biden administration appointees until Biden put forward more Asian American nominees. However, they reportedly said they would only oppose him on the Senate floor but not in SASC, where they both sit.

Hagerty, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan under Trump, said he is concerned about someone with Kahl’s judgment serving as under secretary of defense for policy.

He wrote:

On numerous occasions in early 2017, Kahl appears to have publicly disclosed information about the internal processes of the National Security Council not readily available from any open source and therefore likely to have been solicited from his still-serving U.S. Government associates. On January 31, February 2, and February 7, 2017, he wrote on Twitter information that he claimed to be ‘hearing’ concerning the processes by which President Trump received his classified Presidential Daily Brief, by which President Trump prepared for his calls with other heads of state, and by which the National Security Council staff prepared issues for President Trump’s decision.

By apparently disclosing these and other matters publicly on social media, Kahl was effectively revealing to America’s adversaries details of Presidential decision-making and prioritization in national security affairs. This is knowledge of a kind that foreign intelligence services likely expend great resources to acquire, including through espionage. If Kahl disclosed this national security information as it appears he did, he would have been exhibiting either politically-driven and reckless disregard for security protocols or, at a minimum, serious negligence. By soliciting or otherwise receiving this sensitive information from U.S. Government officials serving in national security roles, Kahl may have also implicated others in his recklessness or negligence.

In light of these apparent actions by Kahl, which have not yet been included as part of your Committee’s record, I urge your Committee to ensure that the nominee answers the following questions before the full Senate is asked to judge his ability to hold a position of high trust in the U.S. Department of Defense.

Is @colinkahl your Twitter account, and did you make these disclosures via that account?

If so, were you aware, at the time you made these disclosures on Twitter in 2017, that publicly disclosing classified information is illegal?

If so, did you report these disclosures in accordance with your security agreement(s) with the Government of the United States?

If so, are you aware that it is illegal for a non-U.S. Government employee to solicit or otherwise receive classified information from U.S. Government officials and then publicly disclose this information?

If so, do you agree that the unauthorized public disclosure of classified or sensitive details concerning U.S. national security decision-making is harmful to U.S. national security interests?

If so, in addition to your public disclosures of classified information on Twitter, did you at any time share classified information with members of the news media?

 

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