Politics & Government

Rand Paul asks CIA if it spied on presidential candidates, including Trump

Sen. Rand Paul
Sen. Rand Paul AP

Sen. Rand Paul — who opposes President Donald Trump's choice for CIA director — is asking her whether the Central Intelligence Agency collected information on presidential candidates, including himself, during the 2016 presidential campaign.

In a letter sent just days before the Senate is expected to vote on Gina Haspel, Paul asks the acting director for "clarification" on CIA practices, in relation to surveillance of Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Paul.

Haspel is widely expected to be confirmed, perhaps as early as Thursday. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., said Tuesday he would vote for her confirmation. Three other Senate Democrats have agreed.

"Under what circumstances does the CIA trail, monitor, or otherwise collect information on the communications and movements of U.S. presidential candidates, both domestically and while they are traveling outside of the United States?" the letter asks.

It also asks whether Haspel or "anyone else" at the CIA ever cooperated with foreign intelligence services to monitor or collect information on Trump during his travel outside the United States in the past five years.

"Specifically, was candidate Trump ever under any surveillance or of interest to the CIA during his previous visits in Europe?" the letter asks.

The Guardian reported last month that Britain’s spy agencies played a "crucial role in alerting their counterparts in Washington to contacts between members of Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives."

The Guardian wrote that it was told that the FBI and the CIA "were slow to appreciate the extensive nature of contacts between Trump’s team and Moscow ahead of the U.S. election."

Paul, who has questioned Haspel's role in the U.S.'s now-discredited torture program and the destruction of CIA interrogation tapes, has called her nomination a "big mistake" and said last month that he hoped the administration would pull her nomination.

“I just don't think it sends a good signal to the world to reward somebody who was involved with waterboarding," Paul said.

Two Democratic senators on Tuesday expressed support for Haspel's nomination, likely giving her enough votes to be confirmed.

Lesley Clark: 202-383-6054, @lesleyclark