Five votes to watch in fight over Trump's CIA nominee

Five votes to watch in fight over Trump's CIA nominee
© Greg Nash

Gina Haspel faces a narrow path to confirmation as President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE’s pick the lead the CIA. 

Although she has won the support of a pair of critical red-state Democrats to offset two Republicans opposing her — Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump administration weakens methane pollution standards for drilling on public lands Another recession could hit US in 2019, says credit union association chief R-E-S-P-E-C-T: One legacy of Franklin and McCain is up to us MORE (Ariz.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate approves 4B spending bill Some employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump says Dems inflated Puerto Rico death toll | House cancels Friday votes | Florence starts to hit coast MORE (Ky.) — several key lawmakers have still yet to state their position.


The Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled to vote on Haspel’s nomination on Wednesday morning. She is expected to secure a favorable recommendation, teeing up a vote in the full Senate as soon as next week.

Here are five key votes to watch between now and then.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGrassley: No reason to delay Kavanaugh hearing Dem senators back Kavanaugh accuser's call for FBI investigation Kavanaugh accuser says FBI should investigate before she testifies MORE (R-Ariz.)

If Flake votes against Haspel, it would further narrow her path to success, though his opposition alone won’t sink her nomination.

A frequent critic of the Trump administration, Flake has already signaled that McCain’s call for senators to oppose Haspel has influenced his thinking.

He is pushing the administration to give the full Senate access to a Justice Department report detailing her role in the destruction of tapes documenting the brutal interrogations of a detainee at a black-site prison in 2002.

The so-called Durham report did not recommend charges against Haspel. The Justice Department has given the Intelligence Committee access to the summary of the investigation, but Democratic lawmakers say the full chamber should be able to see the document.

Flake said on Tuesday that he remains undecided on Haspel’s nomination as he continues to review classified information.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerRussia docs order sets Trump on collision with intel community 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 Bipartisan trio asks US intelligence to investigate ‘deepfakes’ MORE (D-Va.)

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence panel has remained a wild card during Haspel’s confirmation battle.

Although he has been swift to criticize the CIA for what he says is a lack of transparency, he has been restrained in his criticism of the nominee.

He is under intense pressure to oppose Haspel from human rights groups, who have launched a targeted campaign urging him to oppose her nomination on moral grounds.

But on paper, the current deputy director seems to check a lot of critical boxes for Democrats: She is a career official, not a political appointee. She comes with a breadth of practical experience in Russia operations. She would be the first woman to lead the agency.

And Warner represents the state that is home to CIA’s home base at Langley.

If he votes in her favor, he could provide political cover for other red-state Democrats looking for a way to vote “yea.”

Warner told reporters that a letter he received from Haspel on Monday saying that the agency should never have undertaken its controversial post-9/11 interrogation program “was closer to some of the individual conversations I've had with her."

He is expected to announce his decision on Tuesday afternoon.

Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Memo: Kavanaugh firestorm consumes political world Kavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday MORE (D-N.D.)

Heitkamp, who is defending a vulnerable seat in 2018, is being closely watched as a potential Democratic vote for Haspel on the Senate floor.

Although she does not sit on the Intelligence panel, Haspel met with Heitkamp last week as part of a targeted effort to meet with Democratic lawmakers who could be persuaded to support her nomination.

Heitkamp broke with her party to vote for former CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoGrassley to administration: You must consult Congress on refugee cap Graham knocks South Korea over summit with North Shrapnel in Yemen strikes links US-made bombs to 63 civilian deaths: report MORE to become secretary of State last month — effectively setting off a domino effect where other Democrats also came out in favor of him.

So far, she has remained mum on her position on Haspel. 

Speculation has roiled throughout the Capitol that she could announce her position at any moment.

Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan senators unveil proposal to crack down on surprise medical bills The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh and his accuser will testify publicly MORE (D-Mo.)

McCaskill, widely viewed as the most vulnerable Senate Democrat up for reelection, is under heavy pressure from Republicans to support Haspel’s nomination.

America First Policies, a Trump-aligned outside group, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee both announced on Tuesday that they will target a slate of Democrats, including McCaskill, with ads.

McCaskill has been mum about Haspel and brushed off multiple attempts by reporters to discuss her thinking on the nomination as recently as Tuesday. 

She voted for Pompeo twice, both to lead the spy agency and to lead the State Department.  She’s one of several red-state Democrats up for reelection in states won by Trump who are on the fence over Haspel. 

Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Kavanaugh controversy consumes Washington | Kavanaugh slated to testify Monday | Allegations shake up midterms Florida governor booed out of restaurant over red tide algae issues Juan Williams: America warms up to socialism MORE (D-Fla.), who is also up for reelection, is meeting with Haspel on Tuesday afternoon. 

Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.)

Jones is expected to announce his decision on Haspel’s nomination as soon as Tuesday.

The red-state Democrat, who was elected last year to fill Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSessions: DOJ concerned about suppression of free speech on college campuses Faith communities are mobilizing against Trump’s family separation policy Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe lands book deal MORE’s seat, didn’t indicate which way he was leaning.

He met with the deputy CIA director on Monday saying the closed-door powwow was “informative” but declined to comment further. 

Though, Jones isn’t on the ballot until 2020, he’s considered a vote to watch on Haspel because of his state’s conservative tilt.

He was one of seven Democrats who voted for Pompeo as secretary of State.