A se­cond Demo­crat now sup­ports Haspel’s nom­i­na­tion to be CIA di­rec­tor

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY PAUL KANE paul.kane@wash­post.com Karoun Demir­jian and Shane Har­ris con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Gina Haspel’s nom­i­na­tion to be CIA di­rec­tor re­ceived a cru­cial boost Satur­day when Sen. Joe Don­nelly be­came the se­cond Demo­crat to sup­port Pres­i­dent Trump’s choice de­spite ques­tions about her role in the pre­vi­ous decade’s con­tro­ver­sial in­ter­ro­ga­tion pro­gram.

The sen­a­tor from In­di­ana, who met with Haspel on Thurs­day, said in a state­ment that he had “a tough, frank, and ex­ten­sive dis­cus­sion” with her that cov­ered both her vi­sion for the agency and its past use of “en­hanced” in­ter­ro­ga­tions against ter­ror­ist cap­tives, in­clud­ing meth­ods such as wa­ter­board­ing that are widely con­sid­ered tor­ture. While some se­na­tors still have not pub­licly de­clared their po­si­tion, Don­nelly’s back­ing is likely to give Haspel enough sup­port to win at least 50 votes, the bare min­i­mum for con­fir­ma­tion.

Dur­ing her con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing, Haspel pledged to abide by the cur­rent law that for­bids those meth­ods and that she would re­ject an or­der from Trump to use those tech­niques against a ter­ror­ist now.

“I be­lieve that she has learned from the past, and that the CIA un­der her lead­er­ship can help our coun­try con­front se­ri­ous international threats and chal­lenges,” Don­nelly said in the state­ment re­leased Satur­day morn­ing.

He also cited her sup­port from the CIA direc­tors who served in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion as a rea­son for back­ing Haspel.

Don­nelly joins Sen. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) as the only other Demo­crat to an­nounce sup­port for Haspel. Both of them hail from states that Trump won by over­whelm­ing mar­gins. Don­nelly and Manchin are up for re­elec­tion in Novem­ber, and Trump ap­peared at a po­lit­i­cal rally Thurs­day in In­di­ana, in which he sin­gled out Don­nelly and called on vot­ers to sup­port the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee, Mike Braun.

Haspel’s chances of win­ning con­fir­ma­tion im­proved fol­low­ing a hear­ing that fea­tured no ma­jor mis­steps by the nom­i­nee. Shortly af­ter the hear­ing ad­journed, Manchin, a mem­ber of the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, de­clared his sup­port for Haspel.

In a closed ses­sion fol­low­ing Haspel’s pub­lic tes­ti­mony, the mood was less tense and more fa­mil­iar, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the pro­ceed­ings who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to de­scribe pri­vate dis­cus­sions. Haspel spoke in Rus­sian at one point, un­der­scor­ing her long ex­pe­ri­ence run­ning clan­des­tine op­er­a­tions against Rus­sia, these peo­ple said.

The In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee is ex­pected to hold a vote on Haspel on Wed­nes­day, ac­cord­ing to sources fa­mil­iar with the panel’s tim­ing, and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell (R-Ky.) would then like to hold a full con­fir­ma­tion vote the fol­low­ing week be­fore the Se­nate ad­journs for the week-long Memo­rial Day re­cess.

Haspel’s nom­i­na­tion came af­ter Mike Pom­peo, Trump’s first CIA di­rec­tor, was nom­i­nated to be sec­re­tary of state; the Se­nate con­firmed Pom­peo’s nom­i­na­tion in April. Haspel had pre­vi­ously been serv­ing as deputy di­rec­tor.

So far, Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and John McCain (Ariz.) are the only Repub­li­cans op­pos­ing Haspel’s nom­i­na­tion. McCain is not ex­pected to be in Washington for the vote later this month as he bat­tles brain can­cer.

Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) is the only other Repub­li­can who is pub­licly con­sid­er­ing op­pos­ing Haspel — in part be­cause of his re­spect for McCain, a pris­oner of war dur­ing the Viet­nam con­flict.

“I’ve al­ways shared McCain’s views on tor­ture and looked up to him on this,” Flake told re­porters this week.

A few other cen­trist Democrats have not in­di­cated how they will vote. Even if they all op­pose her and Flake joins the op­po­si­tion, Haspel should have 50 votes for her con­fir­ma­tion.

Her nom­i­na­tion has re­newed the fierce de­bate over tor­ture from the pre­vi­ous decade, in which McCain led the fight to out­law the tech­niques that the George W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion al­lowed CIA in­ter­roga­tors to use in so-called black sites around the world fol­low­ing the 9/11 at­tacks.

Haspel de­liv­ered an or­der from her su­pe­rior to other agency of­fi­cials to de­stroy video­tapes of the in­ter­ro­ga­tions, in­clud­ing the wa­ter­board­ing of one of the top alQaeda op­er­a­tives.

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