The coming Senate vote to confirm Gina Haspel, President Trump’s pick to head the CIA, remains a tossup as a key Republican remained undecided on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the controversial but widely respected long-time veteran of the CIA’s clandestine service batted back allegations of torture and promised members of the Senate Intelligence committee that she would fight any effort to reimpose post-9/11 interrogation practices if confirmed.
Her performance caused two committee members who’d previously expressed doubts to pledge support — Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican and Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat. Mr. Manchin is the first Democrat to do so.
But late Wednesday, Republican Sen. John McCain, who is currently in Arizona recovering from brain cancer treatment and was unlikely to vote, advised his Senate colleagues to vote against her.
A victim of torture as a POW during the Vietnam war, Mr. McCain issued a statement praising Ms. Haspel’s patriotism but questioning her inability to “acknowledge torture’s immorality”.
Related Story: Thomas McInerney – Torture worked on ‘Songbird John’ McCain
With fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky already stating his opposition, Ms. Haspel still needs to broaden her support across the chamber where the Republican majority is only 51 to 49.
On Thursday, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn addressed Mr. McCain’s plea but remained firm that she will pass, which he has vowed before.
“I have a lot of respect for Sen. McCain, but we haven’t had a more qualified CIA director perhaps ever,” he told Capitol Hill reporters.
Sen. Lindsey Graham had been undecided but pledged his support Thursday despite being a close friend of Mr. McCain.
In a statement, the South Carolina Republican said he believed the nominee “rejected the interrogation policies of the past.”
However, Arizona’s other Republican senator and frequent Trump White House critic, Jeff Flake, on Thursday declared himself still undecided.
Mr. Flake told CNN he was glad Mr. McCain, has “been a preeminent voice on speaking out against torture” and was “glad that he’s spoken up.”
Democrats on Thursday were hardening their opposition. Both Intelligence committee members from California, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Kamala Harris, announced Ms. Haspel wouldn’t receive their votes. Both senators questioned her during Wednesday’s hearing.
California media had initially seen Ms. Feinstein as seemingly open to supporting her as the replacement for Mike Pompeo, who moved over to Secretary of State.
But on Thursday, Ms. Feinstein, a stout critic of the CIA’s secret prison network and interrogation techniques — said Ms. Haspel’s pledge not to restart such programs was not enough.
“The United States must send a message to the world that we hold ourselves to a higher standard than our enemies,” Ms. Feinstein said in a statement.
She later addressed Mr. McCain’s efforts to halt the Haspel confirmation.
“He [McCain] knows what it [torture] does and what it doesn’t do and I think it will have an impact on people,” Ms. Feinstein told The Washington Times. “He has always had a big impact on me. Now whether it changes votes I don’t know but there is great respect for him so it may be.”
— Alex Swoyer contributed to this report.
© Copyright (c) 2018 News World Communications, Inc.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.