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Feinstein not satisfied by Haspel’s responses on interrogation tactics

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTop Judiciary Dems call for unredacted 'zero tolerance' memo MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace: I told Jeb Bush 'he should have punched' Trump 'in the face' Kavanaugh tensions linger after bitter fight MORE (D-Calif.) suggested on Wednesday that Gina Haspel, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I don't trust everybody in the White House' JPMorgan CEO withdraws from Saudi conference Trump defends family separations at border MORE's pick to lead the CIA, did little to convince her that she had sufficiently distanced herself from the agency's controversial interrogation program.

Feinstein's comments came after Haspel, the CIA's current acting director, told lawmakers in her confirmation hearing that she would not reimplement the brutal interrogation techniques used on terror suspects in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks, even if ordered to do so by the president

But Feinstein, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters that Haspel did not respond directly to questions about whether she would obey such an order. 

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"If she were asked for the agency, by the president, to do something which was considered wrong and illegal, would she just refuse to do it?" Feinstein asked. "She didn’t answer that question directly."

Feinstein said that torture had always been outlawed, waving off legal justifications for the interrogation program cited by Haspel during her public hearing on Wednesday.

Haspel has faced questions – mostly from Democratic lawmakers – about her ties to the interrogation program, particularly stemming from her time overseeing a black site facility in Thailand, where a suspected al-Qaeda operative was waterboarded repeatedly.

She sought to distance herself from that program on Wednesday, saying that she had evolved on the issue. She also disputed a claim that she had run the CIA's interrogation department. 

Haspel vowed to not restart the controversial program if confirmed as CIA director, and said that the agency would continue to abide by the Army Field Manual's guidance on interrogations.

"I support the law, I wouldn’t support a change in the law," she said. "But I’ll tell you this, I would not put CIA officers at risk by asking them to undertake risky, controversial activity again."

Haspel faces a tight confirmation battle in the Senate, and whether or not she wins approval to lead the agency depends largely on what support she can win from Democrats.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulNoisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? Lawmakers, Wall Street shrug off Trump's escalating Fed attacks Five things to watch for in deteriorating US-Saudi relations MORE (R-Ky.) has already come out against her nomination, and the continued absence of Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMurkowski not worried about a Palin challenge Kavanaugh fight a GOP wake up call, but more is needed MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace: I told Jeb Bush 'he should have punched' Trump 'in the face' MORE (R-Ariz.), who is battling cancer, means that she will need to pick up some Democratic support to be confirmed.