Senate

Flake comes out against Haspel’s nomination to lead CIA

Greg Nash

GOP Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) announced Wednesday he will oppose the nomination of Gina Haspel, President Trump’s pick to lead the CIA, citing her ties to the controversial “enhanced interrogation” program used during the George W. Bush administration.

“Congress needs to be able to provide fully informed oversight. My questions about Ms. Haspel’s role in the destruction of videotapes relevant to discussions occurring in Congress regarding the program have not been adequately answered,” Flake said in a statement.

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Flake, a vocal critic of Trump who is set to retire after this year, is the third Republican senator to come out against Haspel, joining GOP Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and John McCain (Ariz.) in opposing her nomination.

Paul announced in March that he would oppose Haspel’s nomination, while McCain came out against the Trump nominee earlier this month, citing her comments about torture during her confirmation hearing.

However, Haspel is expected to be confirmed after several Democrats backed her this week.

Flake had sent a letter to the Justice Department last week asking for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to give the full Senate access to the so-called Durham Report before her nomination arrived on the floor for a full vote. 

The summary of the report, which details Haspel’s involvement in the destruction of videotapes documenting the interrogation of an al Qaeda suspect, was shared with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

A spokeswoman for Flake didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday on whether the Justice Department responded to his letter.

Flake also appeared to point to Haspel’s involvement in the broader Bush-era enhanced interrogation program — now widely viewed as torture — saying the country needs to “turn the page on the unfortunate chapter.”

Still, despite Senate Republicans’ narrow 51-seat majority, Flake’s opposition won’t be enough to sink Haspel’s nomination. She needs the support of at least a few Democratic senators to overcome current GOP opposition and so far she has won over six Democrats: Sens. Mark Warner (Va.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Bill Nelson (Fla.) and Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.).

The Senate could vote on Haspel’s nomination as soon as Thursday after the Senate Intelligence Committee advanced her nomination earlier this week. If Republicans want to confirm her this week they’ll need cooperation from Democrats. Otherwise, a vote will slide to early next week.

Haspel’s background as a career CIA officer who played a role in the agency’s use of interrogation and detention policies viewed as torture has been the key debate in her confirmation process.

Critics of Haspel argue that her work in the post-Sept. 11 CIA was disqualifying for someone who wanted to lead the agency. 

But her defenders, which include top Obama administration officials, argue that she is a veteran CIA official and highly qualified to run the agency. They argue she was following orders in the environment that followed the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history.

At her confirmation hearing, Haspel repudiated the programs and said she would not allow their return.
 
–Updated at 7 p.m.
Tags Bill Nelson cia director Donald Trump Enhanced interrogation techniques Heidi Heitkamp Jeanne Shaheen Jeff Flake Jeff Sessions Joe Donnelly Joe Manchin John McCain Mark Warner Rand Paul Trump nominee

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