There’s another Aug. 2 deadline looming in Washington that also features a stand-off between a Tea Party favorite and the Obama administration. Senator Rand Paul, the freshman from Kentucky, has placed a hold on the otherwise broadly supported bipartisan bill that would allow FBI Director Robert Mueller to extend his 10-year stint by two more years. The White House says that Mueller needs to be confirmed by Aug. 2 or his term will end before Labor Day.
What does Paul want in exchange for dropping the hold? A face-to-face meeting with Mueller to ask a series of questions he posed in a four-page letter to the director a week ago. The two are scheduled to meet on Thursday afternoon, a Paul aide says, after Mueller cut short an out-of-town trip for the meeting.
Paul’s questions are pretty lame. The first two are about the FBI’s investigation of two Iraqi refugees who were arrested last month in Paul’s hometown of Bowling Green and charged with being terrorists. Mueller and the FBI have already managed to talk down Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the GOP Senate leader and the senior Senator from Kentucky, on this issue.
Paul’s next question has been answered by multiple congressional inquiries, news organizations and independent investigators: how did the FBI drop the ball on Zacarias Moussaoui and other al-Qaeda operatives in the run up to 9/11 and what was done to punish those responsible? The 9/11 commission alone spent many pages on the matter. Similarly, Paul’s questions about controversial Patriot Act provisions have been the subject of lengthy investigations, including by Justice’s Inspector General and by Congress. Paul is also worried about the FBI’s attention to domestic terrorists within the anti-abortion movement.
Lame or not, oversight is an important part of Congress’ mandate, so in handling Paul’s request for a meeting the FBI is right to have “been polite” as a Paul aide described it. The FBI declined to comment on Thursday’s meeting. The Paul aide says that the expectation is that the meeting will satisfy the Senator and he’s likely to lift his hold.