LIVE UPDATES

01.31.13

Chuck Hagel’s Confirmation Hearing: Live Updates (VIDEO)

The secretary-of-defense nominee will take on the Senate—and the toughest questions might come from his own party. Read live updates starting at 9:30 a.m. and watch video of the best moments.
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Chuck Hagel arrives to testify at his confirmation hearing to be the next secretary of defense at the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Ted Cruz Brings Visual Aids                                                         2:07 p.m.

Texas Republican Ted Cruz has brought along some visual aids to make his argument against Hagel. He plays a recording of an interview with Al Jazeera English, where a caller says that Israel committed war crimes, and Cruz alleges that Hagel agrees. Hagel said he did not hear that in the call. Cruz brings out another tape in which a woman calls the U.S. “the world’s bully,” with which Cruz says Hagel “explicitly agrees.” But Levin does call out Cruz for not submitting the tapes earlier to have transcripts entered into the record, and he says the calls will be entered into the congressional record, and transcripts will be made.

Joe Donnelly Brings Up Military Suicides                                           2 p.m.

Finally, something other than Israel and Iran. Indiana Democrat Joe Donnelly mentions the alarming rate of military suicides, saying, “In 2012, we lost veterans to suicide than military combat.” Hagel insists he is fully committed to working on this.

Lindsey Graham: Hagel Israel Views Gives ‘Chills’                            1:37 p.m.

Is this the same letter than Sen. Jim Inhofe was talking about earlier? Graham brings out a letter from 2001 to give support to Israel that Hagel refused to sign. “The lack of signature by you sends chills up my spine,” Graham says. Graham seems awfully focused on letters: he also pulls out one that Hagel refused to sign that would ask the European Union to designate Hezbollah as terrorist organization.

Lindsey Graham: Name One Person Intimidated by Israel Lobby      1:25 p.m.

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Wow, South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham isn't beating around the bush here. He pushes Hagel on the “Jewish lobby” remark, even accepting Hagel’s earlier explaination. Graham still presses Hagel to “name one person in Washington who is intimidated by the Israel lobby.” Hagel, a bit speechless, finally answers he “didn’t have one specific person in mind.” Rather than press the matter further, Graham answers, “I gotcha.” Graham also further questions the comment, asking Hagel to name “one dumb thing” done out of intimidation for Israel. Boxed in, Hagel says he doesn’t have one, to which Graham says, “Would you agree that was the wrong thing to say?” Hagel has an answer for this one: “Yes, and I already said so.”

Hagel: Reagan Didn't Support Nuclear Buildup                          1:11 p.m.

Hagel must still be a Republican: he cites Reagan. His fellow Nebraskan Deb Fischer returned to Kelly Ayotte’s questioning about the Global Zero report. Looks like Fischer won’t be voting for him—she insists that Hagel has “extreme views, far to the left” of the current administration (yikes, looks like she might still be angry over Hagel’s endorsement of Bob Kerrey). On the Global Zero report, Hagel says “every president,” including Reagan and Obama, wants to ”wipe nuclear weapons from the face of this earth.”

Kelly Ayotte ‘Troubled’ by Global Zero Report                                 1:05 p.m.

First up after the recess: New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte says she is “troubled” by his support of the May 2012 Global Zero report, which calls for nuclear disbarment. The report called for cuts for the nuclear program, but Hagel insists it does not call for eliminating the intercontinental ballistic missiles, but rather suggests it as a possible cuts.

Hagel: I Misspoke on ‘Jewish Lobby’                                         12:12 p.m.

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Hagel during questioning from the Senate Armed Services Committee. (Alex Wong/Getty)

Now we finally get to the juicy stuff. Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker asks Hagel to define what he meant by saying “the Jewish lobby” “intimidates” Washington. Hagel tries to walk back the comments, saying he should have said “pro-Israel” lobby instead of “pro-Jewish” and insists he meant to say “influence,” not “intimidate.” That kind of changes things. But don’t believe just him, believe author Aaron David Miller, who calls out Hagel as a friend of Israel in his new book. And Hagel’s not done: he insists those comments were solely in the context of Middle Eastern policy, not the media or the banking industry.

Hagel Insists Defense Would Enforce Gay Marriage             12:05 p.m.

So far, not much attention has been made of Hagel's earlier questionable comments on gays. But Hagel insists he would protect the right to same-sex unions in a chapel, but he says he would not insist a chaplain would have to perfom a same-sex wedding if he or she was morally opposed.

Hagel Walks Back on Containment                                         11:56 a.m.

When talking about Iran, Hagel says “we do not favor containment [with Iran]. That’s the president’s position, and that’s my position.” Except not really—Hagel is handed a note that says the president against containment. He tries to play it off with a joke, saying, “I’ve had more attention paid to my words in the last eight weeks than I ever thought possible.” Nice save—he gets a chuckle.

Hagel: ‘I Am Not Certain’ on Iraq                                              11:21 a.m.

Sen. Bob Nelson gives Hagel a softball, asking him to elaborate on his experience in Vietnam and how that influenced his vote on the surge. Hagel gives an impassioned history of his time in Vietnam and notes that 1,200 Americans died in the surge, and history will judge if that was the right decision, while he is “not sure.” “I am not certain, doesn’t mean I am right,” Hagel says. “I always ask the question, is this going to be worth the sacrifice? Because there will be a sacrifice.”

John McCain: Admit You Were Wrong on the Surge                        11:07 a.m.    

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There goes that friendship. Sen. John McCain presses on a quote about Hagel calling the Iraq War surge “the most dangerous foreign-policy decision since Vietnam.” Hagel refuses to answer, which draws criticism from McCain. “I think this committee deserves to know whether or not you said the surge is the most dangerous foreign-policy decision since Vietnam.” Hagel tries to defend his decision to vote against the surge, saying that “history will make a judgment” especially on the “war of choice” in Iraq. “I think [the decision to go to war in Iraq] was fundamentally the most bad, most dangerous foreign-policy deicison since Vietnam.” But McCain doesn’t want to let it go, insisting he is not talking about the war itself, but the surge, which McCain credits as winning the war in Iraq. After this lecture, it looks unlikely that McCain is going to vote for Hagel.

Hagel: Obama ‘Strongest Ally’ to Israel Since Truman             11:03 a.m.

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Given the resistance to Hagel on his positions on Israel, he makes sure to note President Obama’s support of Israel. “I think President Obama is Israel’s strongest ally since Harry Truman” and notes that Truman was instrumental in the creation of the state of Israel. That probably won’t the be the last we’ll hear on Hagel’s position on Israel.

Jim Inhofe: ‘Which Iranian Foreign Ministers Support’ You?        10:56 a.m.   

To close out his statements, Inhofe insists that members of the Iranian foreign ministry support him. But Hagel’s ready for the quesion, responding, “I have a difficult enough time with American politics. I have no idea.”

Jim Inhofe: ‘OK, Skip’ That Letter                                                 10:51 a.m.

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(From left) Sens. Carl Levin, Jim Inhofe, and John McCain listen as Chuck Hagel testifies Thursday. (Larry Drowning/Reuters, via Landov )

Rather than ask questions, Inhofe says he wants to repeat his five main objections to Hagel's nomination. Of course, chief among them is that Hagel reportedly refused to sign a letter in 2001 in support of Israel. But Hagel seems to be ready for Inhofe and asks for more details about this letter. “OK, let’s skip that one,” Inhofe responds, and says he is pressed for time. “It is very important,” Hagel insists. But there’s no answer on this one yet.

Hagel: Iran Vote During ‘a Different Time’                                 10:46 a.m.

Hagel is aware of the criticism on his vote against unilateral sanctions against Iran. He says the 2002 vote was a “different time,” and those sanctions were viewed with skepticism by the Bush administration. “We were at a different place with Iran at the time,” Hagel says.

Hagel: ‘Rock-Solid Commitment’ to Troops                             10:28 a.m.

He’s not just a former senator; he’s also a military man at heart. Hagel says he will always ask, is our policy worthy of our troops and their families and the sacrifices we ask them to make? The Vietnam years have clearly have had a big impact on Hagel. He says, “Our men and women in uniform and their families must never doubt their leaders’ first priority is them. I believe my record of leadership on veterans issues over the years—going back to my service in the Veterans Administration under President Reagan—demonstrates my rock-solid commitment to those who serve our country.”

Hagel: ‘Only Two Functions’ for Troops in Afghanistan            10:25 a.m.

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Hagel testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty )

Hagel makes it clear early on that he and President Obama share the same position on future in Afghanistan: an end to all combat operations by 2014. “There should be only two functions for U.S. troops that remain in Afghanistan after 2014: counterterrorism—particularly to target al Qaeda and is affiliates—and training and advising Afghan troops,” Hagel says. “It’s time we forge a new partnership with Afghanistan, with its government and, importantly, with its people.”

Hagel: ‘We Must Be Smart and Wise’                                         10:24 a.m.

Do not mistake him for a peacenik, surge vote or no. “We will not hesitate to use the full force of the United States military in defense of our security,” Hagel says. “But we also must be smart and, more importantly, wise in how we employ all of our nation’s great power.”

Hagel: ‘Like Each of You, I Have a Record’                                10:21 a.m.

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It’s not a criminal record, though. Hagel gets some of his less popular statements out of the way early. “Like each of you, I have a record,” he says in his prepared statements. “A record I am proud of, not because of any acoomplishments I have achieved, or an absence of mistakes, but rather because I’ve tried to build that record by living my life and fulfilling my responsibilities, as honestly as I know how with hard work.” But don’t associate him with any one vote—Iraq surge, maybe?—or quote, Hagel insists. “My overall worldview has not changed: that America has and must maintain the strongest military in the world, that we must lead the international community to confront threats and challenges together, and that we must use all tools of American power to protect our citizens and our interests.”

Sen. Jim Inhofe: Hagel Supports ‘Appeasement’                              9:51 a.m.

Guess these are the “out of the mainstream” views Inhofe is talking about. After saying Hagel’s “record demonstrates what I view as a lack of sound judgment and steadfast support for policies that diminish U.S. power and influence,” Inhofe says Hagel wants to “appease” Iran. Also, don’t forget about North Korea. “At a time when North Korea threatens our allies with nuclear weapons, why would we want to unilaterally disarm our enemies?”

Sen. Jim Inhofe: Hagel ‘Out of the Mainstream’                          9:49 a.m.

Let’s get the awkward out of the way: Inhofe insists he does not support Hagel at the Defense Department. It’s not personal—Inhofe called out Hagel’s service as “commendable”—but rather rooted in Hagel’s record. “We are just too philosophically opposed on the pressing issues facing this country for me to support this nomination,” Inhofe says. He also calls Hagel’s views “deeply troubling and out of the mainstream.”

Sen. Carl Levin: Afghanistan Is Key                                                    9:46 a.m.

Levin has long been dedicated to the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, and he calls out the important task ahead of Hagel at Defense. “The key to this transition is ensuring the readiness and ability of Afghan security forces to take over the defense of their own country,” Levin says. “I have always believed that should be our main mission, and it’s key to success.”

Sen. Carl Levin: ‘Troubling Statements He Made About Israel’        9:43 a.m.

This isn't going to be a walk in the park, Levin reminds Hagel. After the warm welcome, Levin notes “troubling statements he [Hagel] made about Israel.” Also, there’s Hagel’s ideas on universal sanctions on Iran, which Levin says differ from the White House's.

Carl Levin: We Welcome You to the Senate                         9:34 a.m.

Sen. Carl Levin, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, kicked things off by welcoming his former colleague back to the Senate, calling him an “old friend of those of us whom you served.” Levin also highlights Hagel’s ability to keep things “fiesty.” Let’s hope he’s right in regards to today’s hearing. Also, Levin reminds everyone of some important dates coming up for the Armed Services Committee: a hearing on Benghazi next week and a hearing on the sequester in two weeks. Could this mean Lindsey Graham is voting for Hagel? Graham had threatened to block Hagel's nomination unless a hearing on Benghazi was set.

‘We Serve Equally. We Deserve Equality’                             9:30 a.m.

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A protestor holds a sign as former Nebraska Republican senator Chuck Hagel arrives on at his confirmation hearing. (Susan Walsh/AP)

John Kerry, you’re not the only one who brings in the protesters. Chuck Hagel is greeted to the Senate chamber by a woman holding a sign calling for equal rights for gays in the military.