Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana announced Saturday that he will support President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA, even as Republican senators voice disapproval.
Donnelly joins fellow Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia in supporting Gina Haspel, who has faced tough questions about her tenure at the CIA and alleged connections to so-called enhanced interrogation techniques and destruction of video tapes of detainee interrogations.
“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, adding that Haspel has support of previous CIA directors who served under former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
— Senator Joe Donnelly (@SenDonnelly) May 12, 2018
“I 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,” Donnelly said. “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 challenge,” Donnelly said, adding that 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.”
Both Donnelly and Manchin — who serves on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that must approve Haspel’s nomination before Donnelly and the rest of the chamber confirms her — face difficult midterm fights this year in states that voted for Trump in 2016. (RELATED: Five Takeaways From The Haspel Hearing)
Over the past few days, Mike Braun, the Republican nominee for Senate in Indiana, attacked Donnelly for being undecided on Haspel’s nomination and playing a political game with his vote, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
“If I was in the Senate I would vote to confirm Gina Haspel to be the CIA director,” Braun said, calling the nomination a “historic choice by President Trump would provide strong leadership to a vital arm of our national security infrastructure.” If confirmed, Haspel would be the first woman to lead the CIA.
“Hoosiers deserve a senator who will stand up and lead, not a career politician who is constantly trying to evaluate whether a decision is right for reelection or their left-wing donor base,” Braun said.
Trump himself, appearing at a campaign rally in Indiana Thursday, called Donnelly a “really incredible swamp person,” CBS News reported.
“This November, Indiana will face an important choice,” Trump said. “You can send a really incredible swamp person back to the Senate, like Joe Donnelly. Or you can send Republicans like Mike Braun to drain the swamp.”
With Donnelly’s support, Senate Republicans, who hold a slim 51-49 majority, have a chance to reach the necessary votes in a floor vote. Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is still a likely ‘no’ vote on Haspel, and Arizona Sen. John McCain, a Republican who is still recovering from treatment for brain cancer and would likely not return in time for the Haspel vote, is firmly against the nomination.
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