Gina Haspel won over three Democratic senators Tuesday and earned the necessary support to be confirmed as President Donald Trump's next CIA director.
What: Haspel got the Democratic endorsements in quick succession, according to Politico. First from the Senate Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, Mark Warner of Virginia, then from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and finally from Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida. Both Heitkamp and Nelson are waging difficult reelection campaigns ahead of the November midterm elections.
The Democratic backing should ensure Haspel's confirmation by the full Senate as soon as Thursday.
In a statement announcing what he called his "difficult decision," Warner acknowledged "valid questions" about Haspel's past at the CIA, where she spent three decades.
“Ms. Haspel’s involvement in torture is deeply troubling, as my friend and colleague, John McCain, so eloquently reminded us,” Heitkamp said.
But, Warner said, “Gina Haspel has publicly acknowledged that the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program should not have been undertaken and has vowed to uphold our nation’s laws and values in leading the agency"
Haspel likely helped her cause by on Monday sending Warner a letter that portrayed the CIA's use of torture in its post-Sept. 11, 2011 interrogation program -- which she helped oversee -- as a mistake.
During her confirmation hearing last week, Haspel had been more tepid in her condemnation of the program, earning the ire of the left and even disappointing some Republicans, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who was tortured as a prisoner of war and last week came out against Haspel's notation.
A handful of senators in both parties remained undecided.
Why: Liberal and civil rights activists have vociferously opposed Haspel's nomination because of her involvement in torture and her unwillingness to unequivocally condemn it as immoral. Although she told senators she would refuse to restart the practice at the CIA, some have expressed skepticism.
They have said the stakes are high given President Donald Trump's professed eagerness during his campaign to "bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding." Trump in January said that while he still believed torture works, he would defer to Defense Secretary James Mattis' judgement and not seek to bring it back.
Haspel's backers have argued that she oversaw torture at a time of great fear in the United States and that the practice was deemed legal and approved at the highest levels of government, including by top Democrats.