Heitkamp backs Haspel to lead CIA

Heitkamp backs Haspel to lead CIA
© Greg Nash

Red-state Democratic Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp11 former Democratic senators call for 'meaningful reform to Senate rules' Harry Reid, political pugilist and longtime Senate majority leader, dies Virginia loss lays bare Democrats' struggle with rural voters 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 McCainRedistricting reform key to achieving the bipartisanship Americans claim to want Kelly takes under-the-radar approach in Arizona Senate race Voting rights, Trump's Big Lie, and Republicans' problem with minorities 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 WarnerCIA says 'Havana syndrome' unlikely a result of 'worldwide campaign' by foreign power Schumer opted for modest rules reform after pushback from moderates Biden moves to boost security of sensitive national security systems 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 ManchinJoe ManchinBriahna Joy Gray: Last-minute push for voting legislation felt 'perfomative' Manchin: Biden spending plan talks would start 'from scratch' Manchin, Collins leading talks on overhauling election law, protecting election officials MORE (W.Va.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden to have audience with pope, attend G20 summit Biden taps former Indiana Sen. Donnelly as ambassador to Vatican Republicans may regret restricting reproductive rights 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.