Hagel, Brennan nominations planned for Monday
January 6th, 2013
12:44 PM ET
1 year ago

Hagel, Brennan nominations planned for Monday

Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama plans to announce former Sen. Chuck Hagel as his nominee to become the next defense secretary and Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Adviser John Brennan as the nominee for CIA director on Monday, administration officials told CNN.

Two sources close to Hagel have also been told to expect the defense secretary announcement on Monday, and additional sources - a senior administration official and a source familiar with the nomination - said Obama spoke to Hagel Sunday by telephone.

The White House was calling senators' offices Sunday to inform them Hagel's nomination is imminent and to help build support for it, a source familiar with the nomination said. CNN reported Friday that the White House had told some senior members of Congress to expect the tapping of Hagel, and another source with knowledge of the nomination called it "locked down."

At the CIA, Obama plans to nominate Brennan to replace retired Gen. David Petraeus and acting CIA Director Michael Morell, according to a senior administration official. The announcement is expected Monday afternoon at the same time Obama nominates Hagel, the official said.

Petraeus stepped down from his post in November amid revelations he had engaged in an extramarital affair with his biographer. Morell, a career intelligence officer who was serving as the spy agency's deputy director, stepped in as acting CIA director upon Petraeus' resignation.

For Hagel, getting to the Pentagon will mean overcoming already vocal opposition from pro-Israel groups and others who object to his stance on Iran and Hamas. He has also faced opposition from gay rights groups, who were strong supporters of Obama's election campaigns, for a comment Hagel made in 1998 in which Hagel questioned whether a nominee for ambassadorship was suitable because he was "openly, aggressively gay." He apologized for that remark in December.

On Sunday, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham labeled Hagel's expected nomination as "in your face," expressing concerns on CNN's "State of the Union" about Hagel's past positions on Iran and Israel, which have been the subject of scrutiny since his name was first floated as a potential defense secretary five weeks ago.

MORE: GOP Senators: Hagel in for a fight

Republicans have also struck upon comments in a 2007 interview that some perceive as anti-Jewish, when Hagel said the "Jewish lobby intimidated lawmakers."

They've also lambasted positions Hagel took as a GOP senator, including his opposition to unilateral sanctions against Iran, as well as votes opposing the labeling of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. He also opposed the "surge" of troops in Iraq favored by then-President George W. Bush and members of his administration.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, said Sunday that Hagel would receive a "thorough vetting" just like any other presidential nominee.

"Whoever is nominated for secretary of defense is going to have to have a full understanding of our close relationship with our Israeli allies, the Iranian threat, and the importance of having a robust military," McConnell said on ABC's "This Week." "So whoever that is I think will be given a thorough vetting. And if Sen. Hagel is nominated, he'll be subjected to the same kinds of review of his credentials as anyone else."

A veteran of the Vietman War, Hagel served, by a clerical mistake, side by side with his younger brother, and earned two Purple Hearts, one of those for saving his brother's life.

His time in Vietnam would end up forging his thoughts about combat for the rest of his life, and defining his tenure on Capitol Hill as a U.S. Senator with an independent streak, often sidestepping his Republican colleagues.

"Not that I'm a pacifist, I'm a hard-edged realist, I understand the world as it is, but war is a terrible thing. There's no glory, only suffering," he is quoted in his 2006 biography.

If he is confirmed, Hagel will face the challenge of closing the final chapter on the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and oversee the continued footprint of a smaller U.S. training force there.

MORE: Hagel's defense posture forged by war experience

Hagel has been critical of U.S. policy in Afghanistan. In 2009 he opposed Obama's move to surge 30,000 troops into Afghanistan, telling the National Journal, "I'm not sure we know what the hell we are doing in Afghanistan."

Perhaps the most immediate issue facing Hagel if confirmed as defense secretary would be the future of the Pentagon's budget. Hagel has said in the past that be believes the Pentagon's budget is overweight.

"The Defense Department, I think in many ways, has been bloated," Hagel said in a September 2011 interview with the Financial Times. "So I think the Pentagon needs to be pared down.”

CNN's John King, Athena Jones, Gloria Borger, Mark Preston, Dan Lothian, Lesa Jansen, Mike Mount, Kevin Bohn and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.


Filed under: Chuck Hagel • CIA • Department of Defense
soundoff (269 Responses)
  1. Matt in KY

    Good move! Now keep your nasty hands off him...

    January 6, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  2. Jcook

    It's amusing to me that groups get so upset about comments made 15 years ago. The gay community is hanging onto a comment made in 98 about an appointment of a gay person. Here's a news flash for the gay community....ppl can change their minds. Obama voted against civil unions here in Illinois as recently as 2004, yet you voted for him like he was the gay savior. Ppl have the ability to mature. I myself made anti-gay remarks in the 90's. I thought it was gross and unnatural. Now that I'm 37, I know several gay ppl, including my ex-wife, and have drastically changed my views on homosexuality. Hanging on old comments is ridiculous. And for the Jewish lobby to be upset that he called them out for intimidating the government....that's not a slur. It's a simple truth. Most lobby groups hang threats over the heads of officials. To say that the Jewish lobby, the oil lobby, the pharma lobby, or almost any other major lobbying group isn't a giant bully is ludicrous. You are bullies, and evil. You only care about your personal agenda and will threaten anyone who stands in your way. There is absolutely nothing wrong with obama's picks. In fact, these are rare decisions that I actually agree with. Susan Rice was a poor choice. Not because if Benghazi, but because of her previous work with the UN. She's qualified on paper, but extremely unqualified based on performance.

    January 6, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  3. Don

    Hagel was our senator in Nebraska for several years and a good, middle-of-the-road Republican. He's what the Replublican party was, and hopefully will be again when the radicals are put back in their tea box. He could have gained no better endorsement for his nomination than the uproar he's getting from the radical right.

    January 6, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  4. Surthurfurd

    This is just another example of how Obama always backs the Left wingers and disregards everyone who is a Republican! Oops.

    January 6, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  5. MGunny

    Hagel is a good man, and not a chicken hawk like most of the GOP. No wonder they don't like him.

    January 6, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  6. rosethornne

    I'm no fan of republicans, but I would trust a combat veteran to speak about combat, before I would trust pansy little teaba.ggers who have never served a day.
    Besides, Senator Hagel seems to have come away from his war experiences with sensible and realistic viewd about armed conflict.

    January 6, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  7. Steve - Dallas

    Seems like a sensible choice to me. Especially if the Repubs are against him. I'm not happy about his gay comment some years back, but let's hope he has matured on that issue.

    January 6, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  8. john

    At least he's a veteran and not just some inexperienced "community organizer".

    January 6, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  9. Bill

    As a Nebraskan I can say that Hagel is a decent individual and truly cares about doing the right thing...Good choice Mr. President!

    January 6, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  10. Ton Joad

    Vietnam was an embarrassment for this country that we have never come to terms with. Just as Bush and his gang of thugs should be liable for Iraq, so should our leaders who lied to us about Vietnam. This is no slight on the brave people who served, but rather an indictment on the higher ups that sent people to die under false pretenses. Isn't Hagel a representative of of that establishment? What do we tell the gay service people that he has slighted? President Obama-this isn't the Harvard Law Revue. You don't have to kiss these folk's behinds. They don't care about you.

    January 6, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  11. Vasya

    At least it's not a far left nominee, but I think Obama could be doing alot more to decrease polarization and improve political discourse. It takes two to compromise.

    Still, I'm glad to be in America where the nominees are at least subject to scrutiny, and the president is obligated to keep the people more or less satisfied. Many "democracies" don't have it so good.

    January 6, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  12. A1one

    he sounds like a reasonable man. Stating about the Jewish lobbying facts, defining war as nothing to be proud of. He would help us avoid any further useless wars.

    January 6, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  13. Peter Beck

    The big question: Will the President bow to AIPAC and their Congressional flunkies, or declare that henceforth we will make our own decisions regarding American interests.

    January 6, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  14. Not A Chance

    So Obama wants an anti-Israel, anti-gay Secretary of Defense? This one nomination will be completely opposite of Obama's positions during his campaign, which is status quo for the worst President in American history.

    January 6, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  15. SayNo

    I hope that Congress rejects the selection of Hagel. His statements against Isreal and gays, as well al his flip flopping on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are enough to illustrate that he is the wrong guy for the job.

    January 6, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  16. Aware American

    This might just be a cnn article but this guy sounds like an actual human and not some evangelical robot ready to destory "evil/Islam". Although I could be mistaken.

    January 6, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  17. Come On Now

    I hope we don't allow an anti-gay Secretary of Defense.
    What would be next?
    A return to don't ask / don't tell?

    January 6, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  18. Namefenian

    Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse!

    January 6, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  19. Tom Wells

    The choice of Hagel would among to nothing more than an Obama puppet leading our Defense, and would further weaken the US in the eyes of the world.

    January 6, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  20. Carrie Stevens

    Wow – a Defense Secretary who wants to pare down Defense budgets? That is crazy, especially when Obama wants more spending authority. Looks like entitlements are about to skyrocket.

    January 6, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  21. fenian

    There's a reason why he's a "former" senator..... It just keeps getting better...

    January 6, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  22. Bobby Reed

    Hagel is about as imperfect a choice as there is – unless of course you are Iran, Egypt and any terror organization.

    January 6, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  23. Nobland

    President Obama is willing to do something no other Republicans are prepared to do......work across party lines. Country before party.

    January 6, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  24. matt

    Booo! He doesnt think israel has a free pass to do what it wants and man ipulate us nor does he think we need a massive military budget! How will we police the world with a strategy like this!

    January 6, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  25. fay ruujin

    thumbs up

    January 6, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
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