Top Dem questions CIA campaign to secure Haspel nomination

Top Dem questions CIA campaign to secure Haspel nomination
© Greg Nash

Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinJulián Castro jabs ICE: 'Delete your account' Watchdog: Steele dossier 'had no impact' on opening of 2016 probe Horowitz: 'Very concerned' about FBI leaks to Giuliani MORE (D-Ill.) is calling into question a push by the CIA to build support for President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 MORE's pick to lead the intelligence agency. 

In a letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsFormer US intel official says Trump would often push back in briefings Hillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Intelligence agencies have stopped collecting cellphone data without warrants: letter MORE on Tuesday, Durbin noted what he called the CIA's "robust" lobbying efforts in support of Trump's nominee, Gina Haspel, the agency's current deputy director.

Those lobbying efforts, Durbin argued, are unprecedented and could clash with the CIA's job to provide objective intelligence to policymakers. 

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"The need for intelligence agencies to remain on the right side of this line requires a standard of conduct that, in my judgment, exceeds the standards we may expect of other agencies with policy making responsibilities," Durbin wrote.

The top Democrat's letter also lists a range of activities undertaken by the intelligence agency appearing to support Haspel's nomination for CIA director, including issuing a March 19 press release titled "Bipartisan support for Gina Haspel's nomination to be CIA Director from distinguished national security leaders."

The letter asks Coats to "consider whether the CIA's efforts to promote this nomination are in keeping with the best interests of the intelligence community, and whether additional steps are warranted to review the public affairs postures of each component of the intelligence community."

Haspel is well-regarded within the CIA. But senators on both sides of the aisle have voiced concern over her nomination to lead the agency because of her past ties to a brutal interrogation program used terror suspects following the Sept. 11 attacks. 

In private, Haspel has sought to assure lawmakers that she has no plans to renew the so-called enhanced interrogation program. 

Senators have also voiced concern about the extent to which Haspel was involved in the destruction of videos documenting CIA interrogations, a move ordered by then-CIA Director Jose Rodriguez. Haspel was Rodriguez's chief of staff at the time.