The Senate confirmed President Donald Trump’s nominee to the country’s top counterintelligence position after nearly two years.
Lawmakers voted 84-7 on Wednesday to make William Evanina the first Senate-confirmed director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.
The confirmation comes a few days after Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) lifted his hold on Evanina’s nomination, which he had initially placed in June 2018. The Iowa senator said this was done to conduct oversight and had no personal bearing.
Grassley told senators that after receiving the requested documents from Attorney General William Barr and Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell he was able to make his decision to end his opposition to Evanina’s nomination.
“Due to the recent actions by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General to finally respond to my very longstanding oversight requests, I withdraw my objection to Mr. Evanina’s nomination,” Grassley said in a statement.
“Thanks to their commitment to transparency, I have received access to the types of documents that I asked for almost two years ago in June 2018,” he added. “If their predecessors had simply respected legitimate congressional oversight and their agreements with me and the Judiciary Committee from the beginning, Mr. Evanina would have been confirmed long ago.”
Grassley along with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) voted to confirm Evanina on Wednesday.
“I believe I had Bill’s commitment that the matters of processing the procedures on whistleblower protections will be dealt with. I also feel extraordinarily strongly that at this moment in time when there is not a single senate confirmed appointee in the whole office of Director of National Intelligence. Now, more than ever, we need at least one career, intelligence, professional with a good record confirmed by the Senate,” said Warner.
Speaking on the floor Wednesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said: “Mr. Evanina’s long professional experience has given him a well-trained eye. And he’s made clear he is focused on the most serious espionage threats facing the United States today: China’s insidious efforts to steal our industrial, governmental, technological, and political secrets; and Russia’s continuing efforts to meddle in our democracy.”
A handful of senators opposed Evanina’s confirmation, including Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore). Wyden said he did not think Evanina would protect whistleblowers.
Trump nominated Evanina in February 2018 and Evanina has been in position since 2014. He has a law enforcement background and prior to his service as National Counterintelligence Executive, he was the chief of the Counterespionage Group for the CIA.