Both Dumb and Terrifying: We're Liveblogging Another Round of Senate Confirmation Hearings 

Photo via AP

As we strap into another morning on the I Can’t Believe This Is Happening Express (a rickety bobsled careening into an icy gorge), it’s time for three more Senate confirmation hearings for appointees to Donald Trump’s cabinet. One of them has yet to complete his ethics and financial disclosures, but that’s just how we’re doing things now!

On Thursday, Senate committees will consider Ben Carson, tapped to lead Housing and Urban Development although he knows not much about either, and who has yet to complete that pesky ethics paperwork allowing him to actually do the job he’s been tapped for. Also today: Mike Pompeo, who will have to explain how he plans to run the CIA in an administration that’s demonstrated open hostility to the intelligence community, and retired general James N. Mattis, Trump’s pick for defense secretary, who we highly suspect was selected not because he’s relatively well-respected, but because his nickname is “Mad Dog” and Trump thought that sounded cool. Join us as we continue liveblogging every stage of our grief, won’t you?

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You can watch the Mattis hearing live here starting at 9:30 a.m EST. Carson begins at 10 a.m., and a livestream is here. Pompeo is also at 10, here. And recap yesterday’s fun here, as well as day one of Senator Jeff Sessions’ hearings here.

Anna Merlan

Anna Merlan is a Senior Reporter with the Special Projects Desk, which produces investigative work across all of Gizmodo Media Group's web sites.

A few wrapping up notes before we depart for the day:

Mattis has been granted a waiver that’ll allow him to serve, despite not having been out of military service for the requisite amount of time. Also he continues to be resolutely un-nutty:

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Politico reports that Democrats are pinning their hopes on Mattis to rein Trump in, which hahhahaha.

Meanwhile, Ben Carson has not thought about what he’ll do to guarantee federal HUD funds won’t somehow enrich Trump or his family.

And Mike Pompeo remains really concerned about Russian hacking and/or influence, even if the president-elect is not.

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That’s all for today! Hearings resume again on Tuesday, and maybe by then people will have even finished their homework.

The Carson hearing is just about over with a final question from Sen. Cortez Masto about private financing of housing and mortgages; CSpan is moving to the Senate gaveling in.

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“You remind me of Columbo” -Carson to Sen. Sherrod Brown. !)*#Q8)*!#%#!~

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Senators are onto the second round, Sherrod Brown brings up Starrett City and says HUD will not be able to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest without a blind trust.

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“In the past you have questioned the scientific consensus on climate change,” Sen. Kamala Harris noted to Pompeo, citing the 97 percent of climate scientists that agree that climate change is caused by human activities, and the CIA analysts who have determined climate change a national security threat. “Do you have any reason to doubt NASA’s findings?”

“Frankly, as the director of the CIA, my work is going to work alongside warriors,” Pompeo hedged, not answering the question.

“Do you believe that NASA’s findings are debatable?” she pressed.

“I haven’t spent enough time to say that I’ve looked at NASA’s findings in particular,” Pompeo responded.

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OKAY BRO THEN MAYBE YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE SAID THIS?

Mattis says that he supports a two-state solution in Israel and agrees with Senator Lindsay Graham that Hamas is a terrorist organization.

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Sen. Heidi Heitkamp straight up is like, yeah no one really knows why you were nominated, Ben Carson.

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“I’ve been *this* close to being homeless myself” -Ben Carson.

Housing insecurity is not necessarily *this* close to being homeless! Reminder that he has a long history of just making shit up.

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Sen. Jon Tester is also going in on the ethics violations and speaking out for the true blind trust for Trump!

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Senator Ted Cruz tells General Mattis that he’s a great candidate and will likely be approved with a bipartisan vote. The tone of Cruz’s questions for Mattis, in which Cruz thanked Mattis for “pulling us back from the precipice” sums up the tenor the entire hearing: both Democrats and Republicans alike are eager to approve Mattis’s appointment. Republicans seem to think he can return America to its military power and glory while reducing DoD waste. Democrats seem to think Mattis can temper an otherwise intemperate Donald Trump.

(Ted Cruz also asked Mattis about the “warrior ethos,” and I laughed at Cruz’s insistence that he’s integral to the preservation of the “warrior ethos.” Mattis responded diplomatically.)

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Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto says that when Carson came to speak with her personally, he told her, “We don’t want people year after year vegetating in public housing.” She reiterates her concern and gives him some stats about poverty and the working poor. “Do you believe that low income Americans should have a limit on public assistance?”

Carson says some bullshit about funding and then says again that he wouldn’t abolish safety net programs “without having an alternative.”

“People have to raise their salaries” is something he just said, also.

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Sen. Thom Tills is fired up and fucking hates poor people!

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Sen. Chris Van Hollen brings up Carson’s comments about wanting to get rid of Medicaid, and asks him if he’s going to advocate within the government for abolishing Medicare and Medicaid. Carson says he wants to replace them. Hmm, like the Senate waited to replace the Affordable Care Act before they started taking it apart in the middle of the night last night?

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“I think there was some concern that you don’t have a housing background,” but running HUD is “not, certainly, brain surgery,” Sen. Mike Rounds just chuckled at Ben Carson.

O

K

A

Y

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Feinstein is also pressing Pompeo on his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, pointing out that it’s gotten Iran to step down progress on nuclear weapons. Pompeo has been vocally against the deal, but says he’ll keep reporting progress honestly, which, OK.

Now Marco Rubio is pressing Pompeo about Russia and Syria as he did with Rex Tillerson yesterday: ““Is military targeting of civilians a violation of a law of war?” Oh ho, and he’s calling this purported Russian information on Trump a “shameful leak in the media,” and is asking if he thinks Putin is happy with the results.

Pompeo: “You put a lot into that, and let me unpack it as best I could.” He says he thinks Putin and Russian leadership “views this as something that might well redound to their benefit.”

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Finally, Rubio basically makes Pompeo promise he’ll do something about “authoritarian regimes” like Cuba and Nicaragua. He says yes.

Mattis has confirmed that he will continue to grow the DoD’s renewable energy program, confirmed that he will continue to allow LGTBQ Americans and women serving in the military, committed to continue working for vets with PTSD, and committed to combat sexual assault in the military. All in all, Mattis is looking unusually sane for a Trump nominee.

He was asked briefly about Trump’s habit of mentioning defense contractors on Twitter. Mattis replied that he and the President Elect want the “best bang for the dollar. That’s where I find common ground with him. I see [Trump’s] statements about the cost of defense programs keeping the cost under control.”

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Feinstein is asking Pompeo if he would comply if the president ordered him to re-start “advanced interrogation techniques,” i.e. torture. He says “absolutely not” and adds that he “can’t imagine” being asked to do that. Really?

“I’ll always comply with the law,” he adds.

Now Feinstein is asking about Trump “refuting” the work of the intelligence community and their conclusion that Russia hacked the RNC and the DNC. Pompeo says “My obligation... is to tell every policymaker the facts as this agency has developed them.” He says Russian involvement is “pretty clear” and that he’s “clear-eyed about what that report says,” and that he’ll keep telling the president “and those around him” those facts.

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Elizabeth Warren: “Among the billions of dollars that you’ll be responsible for handing out in grants and loans can you just assure us that just one dollar will not benefit the president-elect or his family?”

Carson keeps hedging, she keeps pressing. “I will manage things in a way that benefits the American people.”

“The reason you can’t [promise] that is that the president-elect is hiding his business interests from you, from me, and the American people,” responds Warren. Yes!

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Sen. Bob Menendez reminds Carson that he once said, “Poverty is really more of a choice than anything else,” and his history of supporting public assistance cuts. “Do you truly believe in the mission of HUD? For instance, should the government continue to provide rental assistance?”

Carson again says his words were skewed and that he was presenting cuts as “a concept,” but then brings up the national debt. I feel like I’m slowly entering an Inception dream state.

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Bob Dole just gave a speech in support of Mike Pompeo, and now he’s giving his opening spiel. Here it is in full.

And while we’re here, let’s note that Pompeo is radically conservative and just as terrified of Islam as everybody else in the Trump administration:

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Carson is getting into that circular thinking that we saw so much in the primaries. Ah, how I missed the feeling of being driven mad by logic.

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Sherrod Brown is taking Carson’s statements to task, bringing up a 2015 column he wrote opposing Fair Housing. Carson again says his words were distorted and defers to municipalities to work on HUD options. Brown then asks him about his views on LGBTQ housing! He responds: “If confirmed in this position, of course I would enforce all the laws of the land, and I believe that all Americans should be protected by the law. What I have mentioned in the past is that no one gets extra rights.” Hmm.

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Crapo asks Carson about his past statements against public assistance programs for the poor, Carson says he feels “very strongly” that we should do everything we can to help people and says his words have been “skewed.” He is lying.

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James Mattis is a normal person, which is news right now.

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Read more!