U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has become an outspoken assessor of President-elect Donald Trump’s potential nominees for secretary of state, going out of his way to criticize several candidates for their hawkish foreign policy views.
Paul, a non-interventionist who has clashed with his party on foreign policy issues during his first term in office, is in a rare position to influence who Trump taps to be the next secretary of state.
A nominee would have to be approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and, with 10 Republicans and 9 Democrats on the panel, Paul represents a key swing vote.
So far, Paul has publicly stated that he would not support the nomination of former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, citing his support of the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
He’s also cast doubts on the prospects of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, questioning the candidates’ views on foreign intervention.
Kentucky’s junior senator and the president-elect were bitter rivals when the two were vying for the Republican nomination for president. Dropping out of the race in February, Paul was slow to support Trump’s nomination but eventually gave a quiet endorsement of the New York businessman.
Now Paul says he’s trying to make sure Trump picks “someone who agrees with Donald Trump.”
“Donald Trump said nation building was a problem, regime change was a problem, the Iraq War was a mistake,” Paul said on CNN last week.
Over the years, Paul has criticized the U.S. role in the Middle East, arguing that the country needs to be more selective about foreign involvement.
In a 2014 speech, Paul said the country shouldn’t be “sentimental” about its foreign enemies, but “we also can’t be blind to the fact that drone strikes that inadvertently kill civilians may create more jihadists than we eliminate.”
Paul has also cast doubt on Trump’s consideration of retired general and former CIA Director David Petraeus for secretary of state, questioning how Republicans could confirm him “with a straight face.”
In 2015, Petraeus pleaded guilty to mishandling classified information; during the presidential race this year, Republicans skewered Democratic nominee Clinton for using a private server to handle classified emails.