Trump’s CIA Pick Passes Crucial First Step

Robert Donachie | Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter

The Senate Intelligence Committee approved President Donald Trump’s pick to head the CIA, Gina Haspel, Wednesday.

The committee voted 10-5 Wednesday in favor of Haspel, who must now be confirmed before the entire Senate body before she can become the next CIA director.

Every Republican member of the committee voted in favor, including two Democrats — Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Four Democrats and one independent voted against Haspel, including: Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Kamala Harris of California, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Angus King of Maine, who is an independent.

Haspel’s confirmation is likely a sure bet in the Senate, after Warner, Manchin and Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Bill Nelson of Florida and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota came out in support of her late Tuesday afternoon. (RELATED: Haspel Has Clear Path To CIA Director)

The Democrats’ support for Haspel is crucial, given that GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is likely to vote against her and GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona is absent.

The intelligence committee grilled Haspel earlier this month regarding her role in the post-9/11 interrogations and the 2005 destruction of video evidence of CIA agents waterboarding terrorist suspects. Haspel served as the chief of staff to Jose Rodriquez, the director of operations for counterterrorism, when he ordered the destruction of videotapes of waterboarding sessions. Haspel was reportedly in favor of destroying the evidence. (RELATED: 5 Take Aways From The Haspel Hearing)

The CIA declassified a review that found “no fault with the performance” of Haspel in the destruction of the videotape evidence, which could help clear the air for senators who are troubled by her involvement in the matter.

Haspel said that if she was given the order again, she would not support it.

Haspel, if confirmed, would replace Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as the next director, and would be the first female director in the agency’s more than 70-year history.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hinted Tuesday that her confirmation vote could come as early as this week.

“Gina Haspel is the right woman at the right time. Her nomination has support from national security leaders and senators in both parties. There is no reason why her confirmation should be delayed — and I look forward to advancing it expeditiously following the committee’s action,” McConnell said in a statement Wednesday morning.

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