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 WarnerThe Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election US intelligence says Russia seeking to 'denigrate' Biden GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe 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 Heitkamp70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA MORE (D-N.D.) also announced that she would support Haspel, followed later by Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William Nelson Trump, facing trouble in Florida, goes all in NASA names DC headquarters after agency's first Black female engineer Mary W. Jackson NASA, SpaceX and the private-public partnership that caused the flight of the Crew Dragon 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 McCainCNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Mark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Prominent conservatives question Jerry Falwell Jr. vacation photo MORE (Ariz.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump-backed Hagerty wins Tennessee GOP Senate primary Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus MORE (Ky.) — have announced their opposition to Haspel and Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism 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.