WASHINGTON ― Gina Haspel is on track to become CIA director after two key Democratic senators announced they intend to support her confirmation.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday that he will support Haspel because she had satisfied his concerns in public and behind closed doors about her views regarding the CIA’s so-called enhanced interrogation program, which she helped oversee in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
In a letter to Warner on Monday, Haspel wrote that the agency shouldn’t have undertaken the controversial program ― in which agents used waterboarding against terror suspects during interrogations. Such methods, she said, “did damage to our officers and our standing in the world.”
Warner, a centrist whose home state of Virginia houses the CIA’s headquarters, called his decision to support Haspel “difficult,” and said he respected the views of his colleagues who disagree with him.
“I believe [Haspel] is someone who can and will stand up to the President if ordered to do something illegal or immoral—like a return to torture,” Warner said in a statement.
Shortly after Warner’s announcement, moderate Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) also said that she intended to support Haspel as CIA director.
“Ms. Haspel’s involvement in torture is deeply troubling,” Heitkamp said in a statement. “However, Ms. Haspel explained to me that the agency should not have employed such tactics in the past and has assured me that it will not do so in the future.”
Later in the day, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida became the fifth Democrat to announce backing for Haspel’s confirmation.
Warner, Heitkamp and Nelson joined Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Joe Manchin (.), who said last week they will vote to confirm Haspel. The group of Democrats would put Haspel’s nomination over the top, even if Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) continue to oppose her confirmation.
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