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Top US Senate intelligence Democrat backs Trump CIA nominee

16 May 2018

While the New York Times and other news outlets are reporting that Gina Haspel, President Trump's nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency, apparently may have the votes to secure Senate confirmation even though she was directly involved in the Bush administration's overseas torture program during the Iraq war, one Alabama senator will vote no.

The panel voted 10-5 in favor of Gina Haspel in a closed session Wednesday.

Confirmation by the full Senate appeared likely as five Democrats - Mark Warner of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelley of Indiana, Bill Nelson of Florida and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota - announced their support.

With a positive committee vote, the full Senate could vote on Haspel's confirmation as early as Thursday, according to Senate aides, although that would require cooperation from senators to waive the chamber's procedural hurdles for a quick vote.

She is a career intelligence official, but her nomination has been controversial because she was involved in the CIA's post-9/11 program of detaining and harshly interrogating terror suspects. But by the time he released the statement, two key swing votes on the committee, Manchin and GOP moderate Senator Susan Collins of ME, had already announced they would vote for Haspel. Two red-state Democrats, Senators Joe Manchin and Joe Donnelly, already announced they will back her.

The four Democrats supporting Haspel are: Warner, Manchin, Joe Donnelly of IN, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. She became deputy director a year ago and has been serving as acting director since Mike Pompeo left last month to become secretary of State.

Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona who is away from the Senate amid treatment for brain cancer, released a statement last week saying Haspel's refusal to rebuke torture as immoral in her hearing was "disqualifying".

Haspel had strong support from former CIA directors who served in Democratic and Republican administrations, including John Brennan, who lead the agency during the Obama administration.

Haspel said that if she was given the order again, she would not support it. Afterward, he committed to voting for her.

Haspel's opponents included more than 100 retired admirals and generals, who said her role in the CIA's use of torture would encourage foreign governments to torture American soldiers and provide propaganda for extremists who want to attack the USA.

Top US Senate intelligence Democrat backs Trump CIA nominee