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 DurbinTop Senate Dem: Public hearing is ‘only way to go’ for Kavanaugh accuser Durbin calls for delay in Kavanaugh vote Dems engage in last-ditch effort to block Kavanaugh MORE (D-Ill.) is calling into question a push by the CIA to build support for President TrumpDonald John TrumpOver 100 lawmakers consistently voted against chemical safeguards: study CNN's Anderson Cooper unloads on Trump Jr. for spreading 'idiotic' conspiracy theories about him Cohn: Jamie Dimon would be 'phenomenal' president MORE's pick to lead the intelligence agency. 

In a letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsNunes: Russia probe documents should be released before election The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Cuomo wins and Manafort plea deal Hillicon Valley: North Korean IT firm hit with sanctions | Zuckerberg says Facebook better prepared for midterms | Big win for privacy advocates in Europe | Bezos launches B fund to help children, homeless 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.