“If Dr. Kahl’s previous tweets did reveal sensitive or confidential national security information, it could be disqualifying for the position and yet another example of his questionable verdict,” said Inhofe, who opposes Kahl’s endorsement of the Pentagon’s top political mission. “My colleagues’ concerns should be investigated and the Senate should be able to review the results of that investigation before we vote on this critical nomination.”
Kahl, against whom all Republicans on the Armed Forces Committee voted in a vote last month, claims he did not inappropriately disclose classified information and noted in a March letter to the committee chairman and senior member that the information in his tweets was in the public domain.
“I have never publicly disclosed information that I knew was classified and took my duty to protect classified information seriously,” wrote Kahl in the letter I received from POLITICO.
A group of 18 Senate Republicans, led by Sens. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, sent a letter to FBI Director Chris Wray on Tuesday Asking the agency to investigate whether the candidate has “posted classified information and controls unclassified information”, discussed it with or asked for it with government officials.
The Republicans also urged Majority Leader Chuck Schumer not to press ahead with Kahl’s nomination until an investigation was completed.
It’s unclear when Kahl’s nomination will advance across the Senate. A spokesman for Schumer did not respond to a request for comment as to whether the leader would respond to the request.
The FBI did not respond immediately. The Hill newspaper first reported that lawmakers had sent the letter requesting the FBI investigation.
The senators claim that Kahl leaked classified information when he tweeted details on March 1, 2017on a meeting of MPs from the National Security Council regarding a crackdown on counter-terrorism in Yemen. Kahl tweeted that he heard the Yemeni portion of the meeting lasted less than 30 minutes and talked to Deputy National Security Advisor K.T. ended. McFarland says “saddle up”.
But Kahl denied that claim in the March 23 letter to Inhofe and Chairman of the Armed Forces Jack Reed (DR.I.), saying that the time allegedly discussed during the meeting on Yemen was by a senior Administrative officials publicly acknowledged in his article tweet was referenced.
An earlier letter from Hagerty to Reed and Inhofe in March stated that Kahl was early 2017 tweeted the processes through which former President Donald Trump obtained his classified president’s Daily Briefing, claiming that the information “was not readily available from open source and was therefore likely requested by his still-serving US government officials “.
Kahl also denies that he divulged classified information in the case, noting that Trump himself publicly disclosed details of his daily briefing, citing reports from the beginning of his presidency.
“My tweets about the PDB were related to this publicly disclosed information. The other referenced Tweets also do not contain any information that I knew to be classified, ”Kahl wrote.
The Republican senators called Kahl’s late March response “evasive” in their Tuesday letter.
Steven Aftergood, director of the government secrecy project at the Federation of American Scientists, told POLITICO that the Senate GOP letter “does not meet some of the criteria the Department of Justice uses to initiate a leak investigation”.
“In particular, the senators do not address whether the information in question has actually been classified, whether it has been properly classified, whether it was already publicly available, or whether its disclosure actually had a negative impact on national defense,” Aftergood said. “So this letter alone is not an adequate basis for an investigation. The fact that it was signed exclusively by Republicans, many of whom criticize Kahl for other reasons, speaks for itself.”
“Also to suggest that it is somehow inappropriate to contact government officials and ask them about matters that could be classified is silly and wrong,” he added. “This is normal, day-to-day practice. It is up to the serving officials to set the limits on disclosure.”
David Laufman, a former federal prosecutor who headed the Department of Justice’s counterintelligence and export control division until 2018, said that investigations into classified information are traditionally conducted at the agency’s request for the information.
“The US government agency that is the alleged victim of the disclosure is sending a crime report stating that there has been unauthorized disclosure and somehow identifying him,” he said in an interview. “This is done through an established mechanism and a threshold assessment is made.”
The threshold for initiating a leak probe, he said, is based on what is called a “The 11 questions” Regarding Unauthorized Disclosures Developed by the Director of the National Intelligence Service.
“My antennas believe this is the subject of a letter signed only by Republican members that raises questions about motivation,” added Laufman. “That doesn’t indicate whether there has been a violation of the law. It’s great that these members of Congress are concerned about this. The real question is whether the agency that owns the information in question is concerned about it. Did they file a crime report?”
The FBI’s urge to investigate Kahl’s tweets is the Republicans’ latest stab. GOP senators reject him because of differences in Israel and Iran policy, namely because of his support for the Iranian nuclear deal of 2015.
Republicans have also highlighted tweets from Kahl’s reign criticizing Trump’s national security policies and GOP lawmakers. The tweets played a major role in Kahl’s controversial confirmation hearing in March.
Kahl apologized to the panel for his rhetoric, arguing that he would approach the top political task and non-partisan dealings with Capitol Hill impartially.
Democrats and numerous former defense and foreign policy officials have backed Kahl, arguing that he was the target of a “smear campaign” and that opponents would use his nomination to relitute the Iran deal.
The Armed Services Committee got bogged down in a 13:13 vote on his nomination last month. All Republicans voted against him.
He can still be upheld if the Democrats stay united, but the Senate process will be arduous, so Schumer will have to file a rare motion to deny his entire Senate nomination and Vice President Kamala Harris could break multiple ties.