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 WarnerTikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Watchdog report finds FBI not motivated by political bias in Trump probe Ex-Rep. Scott Taylor to seek old Virginia seat 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 HeitkampPro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states MORE (D-N.D.) also announced that she would support Haspel, followed later by Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonLobbying world Bottom Line Bottom Line 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 McCainJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House panel debates articles of impeachment Budowsky: Would John McCain back impeachment? MORE (Ariz.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulPentagon to take bigger role in vetting foreign students after Pensacola shooting Overnight Defense: House passes compromise defense bill | Turkey sanctions advance in Senate over Trump objections | Top general says military won't be 'raping, burning and pillaging' after Trump pardons Rand Paul: 'We need to re-examine' US-Saudi relationship after Florida shooting MORE (Ky.) — have announced their opposition to Haspel and Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Kelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing 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.