WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, a hawkish Iraq war veteran who has said he did not consider waterboarding to be torture, is likely to be chosen by President Donald Trump as the next leader of the Central Intelligence Agency amid a Cabinet shake-up, senior administration officials said.
Here are five facts about the Arkansas Republican:
- Cotton, 40, is a staunch Trump ally who has vigorously opposed the Iran nuclear deal. He served one term in the House of Representatives before being elected to the Senate in 2014 as part of a Republican wave. Cotton sits on the Intelligence Committee but has no experience managing a large organisation.
- Cotton has given a qualified endorsement of the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to boost Trump’s prospects. “I have no doubts about the intelligence community’s assessment,” he said in an Oct. 5 interview with Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.
- Cotton wants to boost the defence budget, saying the U.S. military is in crisis, and has pointed to both Russia and China as growing threats. He accused Moscow of trying to divide NATO and said China was “seeking control over the Pacific Rim.”
- A decorated Army veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Cotton appeared to align himself with Trump’s support of waterboarding, saying he did not consider it torture. “Waterboarding isn’t torture. We do waterboarding on our own soldiers in the military,” the former paratrooper told CNN in November 2016.
Waterboarding, the practice of pouring water over someone’s face to simulate drowning as an interrogation tactic, was banned by Democratic President Barack Obama days after he took office in 2009.
- Cotton is a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School. A father of two, he has a reputation as a devoted family man who once apologised for being late for an intelligence hearing because he was tending to a baby in his office.
Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Jonathan Landay; editing by Jonathan Oatis