Heitkamp backs Haspel to lead CIA

Heitkamp backs Haspel to lead CIA
© Greg Nash

Red-state Democratic Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe 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 Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa 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 McCainMeghan McCain: It's 'breaking my heart' Warren is leading Biden in the polls The Hill's 12:30 Report: Video depicting Trump killing media, critics draws backlash Backlash erupts at video depicting Trump killing media, critics 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 WarnerYang compares U.S. election tampering to Russia's election interference efforts Mark Warner nominates Bryan Cranston to play him in a movie Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservative politicians, pundits 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) ManchinThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by USAA — Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies Trump pushed for her ouster GOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe Fallout from Kavanaugh confirmation felt in Washington one year later MORE (W.Va.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyWatchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand 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.