GOP Senators Ask FBI to Probe Biden's Pentagon Nominee Over Classified Info Then-Senator-elect Bill Hagerty, a Republican from Tennessee, stands for a photo at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, on November 9, 2020. (STEFANI REYNOLDS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
By Charlie McCarthy | Tuesday, 13 April 2021 08:33 AM
A group of Republican senators reportedly have demanded the FBI investigate a top Pentagon nominee for disclosing or soliciting classified information on social media.
According to an exclusive report in The Hill, Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., was joined by 17 GOP colleagues in writing FBI Director Christopher Wray to seek an investigation into Colin Kahl, nominated by President Joe Biden to be undersecretary of defense policy.
The senators accuse Kahl of using social media to disclose classified information after leaving his government job in the Obama administration. They also asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., not to advance Kahl's nomination until the FBI has completed its investigation.
"These disclosures are extremely concerning and warrant a complete FBI investigation to determine the full scope of the nominee's mishandling of sensitive national security information, apparently for his own perceived political gain," Hagerty said in a statement to The Hill.
Hagerty and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., teamed to write the letter, which was signed by 16 other Republican senators. Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Rick Scott, R-Fla.; John Cornyn, R-Texas; Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Josh Hawley, R-Mo.; Mike Braun, R-Ind.; and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, were among the signees.
In the letter, the senators cite Kahl's written responses late last month, when he indicated a March 2017 Washington Post story was the source of his Twitter posts, in which he discussed what allegedly were classified details of National Security Council committee meeting about a U.S. operation in Yemen.
The senators said the article Kahl referenced did not account for all of the sensitive contents of his tweets. They also said Kahl's tweets later in 2017 appeared to confirm leaked classified information related to military options in North Korea, and later indicated "multiple" then-Trump administration officials had confirmed the information to him.
"This report should be taken very seriously," Kahl tweeted on Dec. 20, 2017. "There is a contingent at the White House that believes a limited strike is viable and the US can control escalation by threatening regime change if Kim Jong Un retaliates. Very dangerous thinking."
That comment was among those that drew the concerns of the senators.
"Kahl's growing record of apparent mishandling of classified information and controlled unclassified information and his evasive response regarding this issue fall short of the standard required for holding one of our nation’s top national security positions," the senators wrote to Wray.
"By apparently soliciting or otherwise receiving classified information and controlled unclassified information from U.S. government officials serving in national security roles and repeatedly posting such information on social media websites, Kahl demonstrated disregard for security protocols that are designed to protect our national security interests."
The senators told Wray the FBI should review Kahl’s tweets, and examine whether he disclosed or received classified information or uncontrolled classified information on social media after leaving the government, and whether he violated his classified information nondisclosure agreement.
Last month, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 13-13 on Kahl's nomination to lead the Pentagon’s policy shop. The deadlock meant Kahl's nomination advanced out of committee, but must overcome an additional procedural hurdle on the chamber’s floor.
Kahl previously had been criticized by Republicans for tweets lambasting the Trump administration, and supporting the Iran nuclear deal.