Several CIA veterans reacted with alarm on Thursday to news that Republican Sen. Tom Cotton could replace Mike Pompeo as head of the intelligence agency within the next two months.
It is unclear whether Cotton, a combat veteran and Senate freshman, would accept the position if nominated by President Donald Trump. Cotton’s spokesman said on Thursday that his “focus is on serving Arkansans in the Senate.”
But Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly is reportedly spearheading a national security shake-up that would involve installing Pompeo as secretary of state and Cotton as CIA director. Rex Tillerson, whose leadership of the State Department has been criticized by both career department employees and the president, would be ousted.
“This is an awful appointment,” said Paul Pillar, a 28-year veteran of the CIA, of Cotton’s potential nomination. “Sen.Cotton is a highly ideological individual who is not well-suited to lead an agency part of whose core mission is objective analysis.”