Sen. Joe Donnelly to back Trump’s CIA pick

Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana announced Saturday that he will support Gina Haspel’s nomination for CIA director.

“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 in a statement. “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 (Michael) Hayden, (Leon) Panetta, and (John) Brennan, who served under presidents Bush and Obama.”

Donnelly, whose state voted for Donald Trump for president in 2016, is up for re-election this year. He is the second Democrat to announce his support for the President’s pick to replace Mike Pompeo, who was confirmed as secretary of state last month. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia — who also is up for reelection in a state that went for Trump — announced earlier this week that he would support Haspel’s nomination.

Haspel has been a controversial choice to lead the agency because of her involvement in the George W. Bush administration’s interrogation program after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Her role in the program was addressed several times during her confirmation hearing this week. She told the senators that under her watch, she would not allow the CIA to resume interrogations.

After the hearing, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who was tortured as a prisoner in Vietnam, called on the Senate to reject her nomination, citing her refusal in testimony to acknowledge “torture’s immorality.”

So far one Republican, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, has announced his opposition to her nomination.

Donnelly said in his statement that he had a “tough, frank, and extensive discussion with Ms. Haspel on a wide range of topics, including her vision for the agency and how she would approach the job, as well as issues of detention and interrogation.”

The Indiana Democrat added that believes Haspel has learned from the past and that she expressed to him “her commitment to be responsive to congressional oversight and to provide her unvarnished assessment — both to members of Congress and the President. For those reasons, and after careful consideration, I will support Ms. Haspel’s nomination.”