Heitkamp backs Haspel to lead CIA

Heitkamp backs Haspel to lead CIA
© Greg Nash

Red-state Democratic Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) Overnight Health Care: Supreme Court nomination reignites abortion fight in states | Trump urges Sessions to sue opioid makers | FDA approves first generic version of EpiPen Judge rules against Trump attempt to delay Obama water rule MORE (N.D.) said on Tuesday that she will support CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. 

But Heitkamp said supporting Haspel, who she met with last week, was not an "easy decision," referencing Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Hill's 12:30 Report Senate gets to work in August — but many don’t show up Rand Paul’s Russia visit displays advancement of peace through diplomacy MORE's (R-Ariz.) opposition to her nomination. 

"Ms. Haspel’s involvement in torture is deeply troubling, as my friend and colleague, John McCain, so eloquently reminded us. 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," Heitkamp said in a statement. 

ADVERTISEMENT
"While I trust her word, I will also verify, helping to ensure Congress conducts robust oversight of the CIA under her leadership," she added.

Heitkamp noted that Haspel, a 30-year veteran of the CIA, was "highly respected" within the agency. 

Heitkamp is the fourth Democrat to say they will back Haspel to lead the CIA. Her announcement came minutes after Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenators demand answers on reported lead poisoning at Army bases Top Republican: Senate panel not ready to wrap up Russia probe The Memo: For Trump, this week has been anything but sleepy MORE (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he would support her nomination. 

In addition to Heitkamp and Warner, Democratic Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Health Care: Senate takes up massive HHS spending bill next week | Companies see no sign of drugmakers cutting prices, despite Trump claims | Manchin hits opponent on ObamaCare lawsuit Manchin hits opponent on ObamaCare lawsuit with new ad The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) MORE (W.Va.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyThe Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) Schumer to meet with Kavanaugh on Tuesday Supreme Court nomination reignites abortion fights in states MORE (Ind.) have said they will vote for Haspel.

Haspel appears to have a lock on confirmation, with a vote in the Intelligence Committee expected on Wednesday. The Senate could then vote on her nomination as soon as later this week. 

She's considered controversial because of her involvement in George W. Bush-era "enhanced interrogation techniques" — now widely viewed as torture — as well as her time running a CIA black site and the destruction of videotapes of the interrogation of an al Qaeda suspect.