Heitkamp backs Haspel to lead CIA

Heitkamp backs Haspel to lead CIA
© Greg Nash

Red-state Democratic Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampTrump to nominate former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as next EPA administrator North Dakota New Members 2019 2020 politics make an immigration deal unlikely in lame-duck 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 McCainTrump set to have close ally Graham in powerful chairmanship Cindy McCain takes aim at Trump: We need a strong leader, 'not a negative Nancy' McCain would have said ‘enough’ to acrimony in midterms, says Cindy McCain 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 WarnerFacebook reeling after damning NYT report On The Money: Trump, Senate leaders to huddle on border wall funding | Fed bank regulator walks tightrope on Dodd-Frank | Koch-backed groups blast incentives for corporations after Amazon deal Schumer told Warner to back off of Facebook: report 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) ManchinSotomayor: Kavanaugh now part of the Supreme Court ‘family’ Trump to nominate former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as next EPA administrator Schumer reelected as Senate Democratic Leader MORE (W.Va.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyTrump to nominate former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as next EPA administrator Indiana New Members 2019 2020 politics make an immigration deal unlikely in lame-duck 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.