With Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) publicly opposed to CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s confirmation to be Trump’s secretary of state, Pompeo is seeking to win votes from Democratic U.S. Senators to get across the finish line.
Among the possible Democratic targets for Pompeo are Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Alabama’s own Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook).
At a town hall meeting for University of Alabama students in Tuscaloosa last week, Jones addressed the Pompeo matter and explained how he sought to follow in the footsteps of one of his predecessors, former Alabama Sen. Howell Heflin.
“I start with any presidential nomination with a needle in favor of the president,” Jones said. “I go back to my role as a staff member for the late Sen. Howell Heflin from Alabama.”
According to Jones, Heflin began with a view of the confirmation process in favor of the nominee.
“As chief justice [of the Alabama Supreme Court], he always felt constitutionally bound that his role and his view that the president should be given the benefit of the doubt with regard to nominations,” Jones said. “However, that does not mean that it would take a lot to move that needle back. If you do the appropriate work, you can figure this out and determine for yourself whether or not a nomination is qualified, whether or not they’re going to uphold the law. And that will mean voting for someone that I did not personally agree with and would not have personally appointed if I were king or I were president.”
At the time the Tuscaloosa event on April 13, Jones had not met with Pompeo. A representative from Jones’ office told Yellowhammer News Jones and Pompeo met on Thursday.
“He has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill,” Jones said. “He has not made it to my office yet. I fully expect him to at some point. I want to reserve my judgment on him. He has been confirmed once.”
Critics of Pompeo have opposed his confirmation on the grounds of his view on U.S. involvement in the Middle East and the use of “torture” as a means of interrogation.
“I have heard and understand the criticism and concerns and I want to talk to him about it,” Jones said.
For the time being, Jones remains non-committal on the confirmation, especially given he was not a U.S. Senator when Pompeo was confirmed to be CIA director in 2017.
“The jury is out for me at this point as a freshman senator that didn’t have the benefit of voting on him the last time,” he said.
Editor note: This story was updated to reflect Jones had met with Pompeo two days earlier per Jones’ office.