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McCain Pledges to Lift Hold on Clapper When He Receives Intelligence Report

Sen. John McCain said Monday that he would lift his hold on the nomination of James Clapper to be director of national intelligence as soon as he receives a report on classified intelligence matters.

“As soon as they get it over, and they said they could get it over very soon. Either tonight or tomorrow,” the Arizona Republican said. “It’s a report I’ve been asking for for a year and a half.”

McCain would not describe the nature of the report and told reporters that Clapper “indirectly” assured him it would be sent soon. McCain said his hold was not a reflection on Clapper’s credentials, and he directed strong words at intelligence officials who he said previously rebuffed his requests.

“I’m worried about the fact that information I was told to my face I would receive has not been sent over. As an ex officio member of the Intelligence Committee and senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, I expect when people look me in the eye and say, ‘I’ll get a report over to you,’ that it comes over,” McCain said. “What I really care about is Congressional oversight.”

Intelligence ranking member Kit Bond (R-Mo.) also said he would “consider all tools available” to hold up Clapper’s nomination while he awaits separate information regarding the threat assessment of detainees at the U.S. facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) reportedly also seeks that information.

“I want the full report, and we want to be able to talk to the analysts that were involved in it,” Bond said.

The Senate Intelligence Committee unanimously approved Clapper’s nomination last week, and Democrats had hoped to confirm him before adjourning for the August break. If McCain lifts his hold and the concerns of Bond and Coburn are addressed, a confirmation vote might still be possible this week.

Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she spoke with McCain and Bond on Monday. She said McCain would likely receive the information he requested by Tuesday. Their concerns, Feinstein said, were not tied to Clapper’s nomination but rather to intelligence information.

President Barack Obama nominated Clapper in June to fill the post previously held by retired Adm. Dennis Blair. Clapper is a retired Air Force lieutenant general currently serving as undersecretary of Defense for intelligence.

Blair stepped down in May after a rocky 16-month stint. He suffered from strained relations with White House officials and faced increased scrutiny over national security breaches during his tenure, including an attempted bombing in Times Square, shootings at Fort Hood in Texas, and the attempted bombing of a commercial jet over Detroit.

The director of national intelligence, a job created after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, oversees 16 spy agencies.

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