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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 WarnerCollusion judgment looms for key Senate panel Hillicon Valley: Facebook reveals 30 million users affected by hack | Grassley presses Google to explain data practices | Senators warn Canada against using Chinese telecom firm | FCC responds to net neutrality lawsuits Senators urge Canada against using Huawei in 5G development due to national security concerns 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 HeitkampDemocrats hold fading odds of winning Senate this November Florida politics play into disaster relief debate Cornyn: 'All the money in the world' won't help O'Rourke win Texas MORE (D-N.D.) also announced that she would support Haspel, followed later by Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonDisasters become big chunk of U.S. deficit Electoral battle for Hispanics intensifies in Florida Democrats hold fading odds of winning Senate this November 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 McCainMurkowski not worried about a Palin challenge Kavanaugh fight a GOP wake up call, but more is needed MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace: I told Jeb Bush 'he should have punched' Trump 'in the face' MORE (Ariz.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulNoisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? Lawmakers, Wall Street shrug off Trump's escalating Fed attacks Five things to watch for in deteriorating US-Saudi relations MORE (Ky.) — have announced their opposition to Haspel and Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake: Congress should not continue Kavanaugh investigations Arizona congressional candidate robbed outside restaurant The Kavanaugh debate was destructive tribalism on steroids: Here’s how we can stop it from happening again 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.