Heitkamp backs Haspel to lead CIA

Heitkamp backs Haspel to lead CIA
© Greg Nash

Red-state Democratic 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 (N.D.) said on Tuesday that she will support CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. 

But Heitkamp said supporting Haspel, who she met with last week, was not an "easy decision," referencing Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain Senate outlook slides for GOP Juan Williams: Time for boldness from Biden Democrats lead in three battleground Senate races: poll MORE's (R-Ariz.) opposition to her nomination. 

"Ms. Haspel’s involvement in torture is deeply troubling, as my friend and colleague, John McCain, so eloquently reminded us. However, Ms. Haspel explained to me that the agency should not have employed such tactics in the past and has assured me that it will not do so in the future," Heitkamp said in a statement. 

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"While I trust her word, I will also verify, helping to ensure Congress conducts robust oversight of the CIA under her leadership," she added.

Heitkamp noted that Haspel, a 30-year veteran of the CIA, was "highly respected" within the agency. 

Heitkamp is the fourth Democrat to say they will back Haspel to lead the CIA. Her announcement came minutes after Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls Hillicon Valley: Facebook takes down 'boogaloo' network after pressure | Election security measure pulled from Senate bill | FCC officially designating Huawei, ZTE as threats Overnight Defense: Democrats blast Trump handling of Russian bounty intel | Pentagon leaders set for House hearing July 9 | Trump moves forward with plan for Germany drawdown MORE (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he would support her nomination. 

In addition to Heitkamp and Warner, Democratic Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinGeorge Floyd and the upcoming Texas Democratic Senate runoff Energy companies cancel Atlantic Coast Pipeline Trump nominee faces Senate hurdles to securing public lands post MORE (W.Va.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEx-Sen. Joe Donnelly endorses Biden Lobbying world 70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents MORE (Ind.) have said they will vote for Haspel.

Haspel appears to have a lock on confirmation, with a vote in the Intelligence Committee expected on Wednesday. The Senate could then vote on her nomination as soon as later this week. 

She's considered controversial because of her involvement in George W. Bush-era "enhanced interrogation techniques" — now widely viewed as torture — as well as her time running a CIA black site and the destruction of videotapes of the interrogation of an al Qaeda suspect.