President Donald Trump’s nominee to become the next director of the CIA has hit several roadblocks on her way to confirmation… but she just received support from a surprising voice.
Career intelligence expert Gina Haspel is poised to become the first female CIA chief in history. However, two Republicans — Senators Rand Paul and John McCain — have declared that they will not vote to confirm her.
Paul is known for his strong libertarian views, and often disagrees with others in the GOP when it comes to international issues. McCain is perhaps the most well-known name in Congress, but is a vocal critic of Trump and very moderate.
After McCain raised objections to the CIA’s past use of enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding against terrorists, he came out against Haspel. That could have derailed her confirmation completely… but a Democrat senator has now sided with Trump’s nominee.
On Saturday, Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana announced that he will break from liberals in his party and back Haspel.
According to The Hill, the Democrat explained that he thought the nominee “has learned from the past, and that the CIA under her leadership can help our country confront serious international threats and challenges.”
Another Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has also indicated that he will back Haspel. With two Democrats now supporting her, the nominee has a good chance of being confirmed, though nothing is set in stone.
In a written statement, Donnelly spoke positively about Haspel’s experience. He also cited her “intellect, steady temperament, vast knowledge of threats we face, and dedication to our country are undeniable” as factors in his decision.
“I have found Gina Haspel to be a person of great character,” the Indiana lawmaker stated.
“Over her 33 year career as a CIA operations officer, she has worked in some of the most dangerous corners of our world, and I have the utmost respect for the sacrifices she has made for our country,” he said.
Haspel has been endorsed by many respected names, including current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Three former CIA directors have backed her, and they themselves are well regarded on both sides of the political aisle.
Republican mavericks like McCain may find that they’re running out of excuses for not supporting the president’s nominee. McCain’s primary complaint is that Haspel wouldn’t condemn the use of waterboarding in the months after 9/11.
His squeamishness about that issue is understandable, considering his own mistreatment by the Viet Cong after he was captured during the Vietnam War. Haspel, however, refused to budge on the matter.
“I’m not going to sit here, with the benefit of hindsight, and judge the very good people who made hard decisions, who were running the agency in very extraordinary circumstances,” she said during the Senate hearing.
With that said, Haspel did pledge that those techniques would not be re-started under her watch.
Nobody, including McCain and Paul, seems to dispute that Haspel would be an effective and focused CIA director. With Democrats like Donnelly now backing her, the path to her confirmation may not be perfectly smooth, but there are far fewer obstacles than it appeared earlier in the week.
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