Warner vote clears path for Haspel confirmation

Warner vote clears path for Haspel confirmation
© Greg Nash

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHarris on election security: 'Russia can't hack a piece of paper' Schiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears MORE (Va.), announced Tuesday that he will support Gina Haspel to lead the CIA, all but ensuring that she has the votes to be confirmed.

"I acknowledge that this has been a difficult decision," Warner said in a statement. "I have been frank with Ms. Haspel that I wish she had been more open with the American public during this process."

"However, in both our one-on-one meetings and in classified session before the Committee, I found Acting Director Haspel to be more forthcoming regarding her views on the interrogation program."

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Warner noted that he also "take[s] to heart the strong support Ms. Haspel has among rank-and-file members of the intelligence community and from intelligence community leaders who served under President Obama." He said he believes that Haspel "can and will stand up to the President if ordered to do something illegal or immoral—like a return to torture."

The Virginia Democrat — whose state is home to the agency that Haspel has been tapped to lead — has been conspicuously tight-lipped on her nomination.

Just minutes after Warner's announcement, Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (D-N.D.) also announced that she would support Haspel, followed later by Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William Nelson2020 party politics in Puerto Rico There is no winning without Latinos as part of your coalition Dem 2020 candidates court Puerto Rico as long nomination contest looms MORE (D-Fla.) — bringing the total number of Democratic votes in support up to five and appearing to clinch her confirmation.

Two Republicans — Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMellman: Where are good faith and integrity? GOP senator says Republicans didn't control Senate when they held majority Pence met with silence after mentioning Trump in Munich speech MORE (Ariz.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Congress must step up to protect Medicare home health care Business, conservative groups slam Trump’s national emergency declaration MORE (Ky.) — have announced their opposition to Haspel and Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (R-Ariz.) has remained on the fence.

Her nomination has been bitterly controversial thanks to her involvement in the agency's detention and interrogation program in the years following Sept. 11. The agency has since disavowed the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, now widely considered torture. 

Haspel has frustrated some Democrats by refusing to condemn the program on moral grounds. In a letter to Warner Wednesday, she said that in "hindsight" the agency should not have used the techniques. 

“While I won't condemn those that made these hard calls, and I have noted the valuable intelligence collected, the program ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world," Haspel wrote in a Monday letter to Warner.

Haspel faces a committee vote before the Intelligence panel on Wednesday morning, teeing her up for a floor vote as soon as next week.

Updated: 4:59 p.m.