Five votes to watch in fight over Trump's CIA nominee

Five votes to watch in fight over Trump's CIA nominee
© Greg Nash

Gina Haspel faces a narrow path to confirmation as President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want to use 'adversary' to describe Russia Comey urges Americans to vote for Democrats in midterms Roby wins Alabama GOP runoff, overcoming blowback from Trump criticism MORE’s pick the lead the CIA. 

Although she has won the support of a pair of critical red-state Democrats to offset two Republicans opposing her — Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainPence, Pompeo urged Trump to clarify Russia remarks: report GOP lawmaker renews call for Trump to release tax returns after Putin summit House conservatives criticize media, not Trump, for Putin furor MORE (Ariz.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Nation editor: Reaction by most of the media to Trump-Putin press conference 'is like mob violence' Lewandowski: Trump-Putin meeting advances goal of world peace Rand Paul to travel to Russia after downplaying election meddling MORE (Ky.) — several key lawmakers have still yet to state their position.

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The Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled to vote on Haspel’s nomination on Wednesday morning. She is expected to secure a favorable recommendation, teeing up a vote in the full Senate as soon as next week.

Here are five key votes to watch between now and then.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeKelly lobbied Republicans to rebuke Trump after Putin press conference: report Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash Flake to Trump: 'Fake news' didn't side with Putin, you did MORE (R-Ariz.)

If Flake votes against Haspel, it would further narrow her path to success, though his opposition alone won’t sink her nomination.

A frequent critic of the Trump administration, Flake has already signaled that McCain’s call for senators to oppose Haspel has influenced his thinking.

He is pushing the administration to give the full Senate access to a Justice Department report detailing her role in the destruction of tapes documenting the brutal interrogations of a detainee at a black-site prison in 2002.

The so-called Durham report did not recommend charges against Haspel. The Justice Department has given the Intelligence Committee access to the summary of the investigation, but Democratic lawmakers say the full chamber should be able to see the document.

Flake said on Tuesday that he remains undecided on Haspel’s nomination as he continues to review classified information.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate Dems press for info on any deals from Trump-Putin meeting Overnight Defense: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | GOP looks to reassure NATO | Mattis open to meeting Russian counterpart Hillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback MORE (D-Va.)

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence panel has remained a wild card during Haspel’s confirmation battle.

Although he has been swift to criticize the CIA for what he says is a lack of transparency, he has been restrained in his criticism of the nominee.

He is under intense pressure to oppose Haspel from human rights groups, who have launched a targeted campaign urging him to oppose her nomination on moral grounds.

But on paper, the current deputy director seems to check a lot of critical boxes for Democrats: She is a career official, not a political appointee. She comes with a breadth of practical experience in Russia operations. She would be the first woman to lead the agency.

And Warner represents the state that is home to CIA’s home base at Langley.

If he votes in her favor, he could provide political cover for other red-state Democrats looking for a way to vote “yea.”

Warner told reporters that a letter he received from Haspel on Monday saying that the agency should never have undertaken its controversial post-9/11 interrogation program “was closer to some of the individual conversations I've had with her."

He is expected to announce his decision on Tuesday afternoon.

Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Bipartisan group introduces retirement savings legislation in Senate Fed chief lays out risks of trade war MORE (D-N.D.)

Heitkamp, who is defending a vulnerable seat in 2018, is being closely watched as a potential Democratic vote for Haspel on the Senate floor.

Although she does not sit on the Intelligence panel, Haspel met with Heitkamp last week as part of a targeted effort to meet with Democratic lawmakers who could be persuaded to support her nomination.

Heitkamp broke with her party to vote for former CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoSenate Dems press for info on any deals from Trump-Putin meeting Pence, Pompeo urged Trump to clarify Russia remarks: report Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash MORE to become secretary of State last month — effectively setting off a domino effect where other Democrats also came out in favor of him.

So far, she has remained mum on her position on Haspel. 

Speculation has roiled throughout the Capitol that she could announce her position at any moment.

Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Senate Dems lock in million in TV airtime Why does Congress keep playing political games on FBI oversight? MORE (D-Mo.)

McCaskill, widely viewed as the most vulnerable Senate Democrat up for reelection, is under heavy pressure from Republicans to support Haspel’s nomination.

America First Policies, a Trump-aligned outside group, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee both announced on Tuesday that they will target a slate of Democrats, including McCaskill, with ads.

McCaskill has been mum about Haspel and brushed off multiple attempts by reporters to discuss her thinking on the nomination as recently as Tuesday. 

She voted for Pompeo twice, both to lead the spy agency and to lead the State Department.  She’s one of several red-state Democrats up for reelection in states won by Trump who are on the fence over Haspel. 

Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Hillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback Senate Dems rip Trump after Putin news conference MORE (D-Fla.), who is also up for reelection, is meeting with Haspel on Tuesday afternoon. 

Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.)

Jones is expected to announce his decision on Haspel’s nomination as soon as Tuesday.

The red-state Democrat, who was elected last year to fill Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsHomeland Security advisory council members resign over family separations: report Once a Trump critic, Ala. rep faces runoff with his support Ryan: 'The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally' MORE’s seat, didn’t indicate which way he was leaning.

He met with the deputy CIA director on Monday saying the closed-door powwow was “informative” but declined to comment further. 

Though, Jones isn’t on the ballot until 2020, he’s considered a vote to watch on Haspel because of his state’s conservative tilt.

He was one of seven Democrats who voted for Pompeo as secretary of State.