Politics

Donnelly Becomes Second Democrat to Support Gina Haspel to Lead the CIA

Indiana senator provides an insurance vote for the Trump nominee

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., announced his support for CIA Director nominee Gina Haspel on Saturday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate appears to be moving full speed ahead on confirming Gina Haspel as director of the CIA.

The Intelligence Committee is expected to vote to advance her nomination to the floor during a closed business meeting scheduled for Wednesday morning, and a Saturday morning announcement by Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly further reduced the suspense.

“I believe that she has learned from the past, and that the CIA under her leadership can help our country confront serious international threats and challenges,” Donnelly said in a statement. “Importantly, Ms. Haspel expressed to me her commitment to be responsive to congressional oversight and to provide her unvarnished assessment — both to members of Congress and the president.”

Donnelly’s office said the Indiana Democrat met Thursday with Haspel, the current acting director of the CIA.

The same night, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Penceappeared together Indiana at a rally in support of Donnelly’s Republican challenger Mike Braun.

During the event, Trump and Pence criticized Donnelly for his voting record, while also pushing him to support the CIA nominee. In his statement, the senator said the support Haspel has received from the intelligence community was an important factor in his decision.

Watch: Haspel Faced Protesters, Questions on Interrogation

“As our country faces dynamic and challenging security threats, it is critically important that our intelligence agencies have the leadership and support that they need to help keep Americans safe and defend our nation from those who wish to do us harm,” Donnelly said. “Gina Haspel has served our country and the Central Intelligence Agency for more than 30 years, and she has the strong support of both her colleagues at the agency and former CIA Directors Hayden, Panetta, and Brennan, who served under Presidents Bush and Obama.”

Criticism of Haspel has centered on her connection to the “enhanced interrogations” conducted during the George W. Bush administration, as well as her involvement in executing the destruction of interrogation tapes.

Sen. John McCain has implored his colleagues to try to block Haspel’s confirmation over those issues. But even if McCain’s stand manages to sway fellow Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, the support from Donnelly will be able to offset that.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III was the first Democratic senator to announce support for Haspel, doing so shortly after leaving a closed hearing with her on Wednesday.

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