McCain's rejection of Haspel weighing on senators

In the White House's fight to confirm Gina Haspel to be the next CIA director, a familiar voice of dissent could hurt...

Posted: May 10, 2018 8:12 PM
Updated: May 10, 2018 8:12 PM

In the White House's fight to confirm Gina Haspel to be the next CIA director, a familiar voice of dissent could hurt their chances.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who is fighting brain cancer back in Arizona, announced Wednesday evening he hoped his colleagues wouldn't confirm Haspel, citing her role in the Bush-era CIA interrogation program. McCain's comments are hanging over the Senate, following Haspel's confirmation hearing Wednesday and the positive news of her nomination gaining the support of at least one Democrat.

RELATED: Here's how senators say they'll vote on CIA director nominee Haspel

Sen. Jeff Flake, the retiring Republican also from Arizona, has yet to make up his mind on Haspel as of Thursday morning, a fact complicated now by McCain, who's been a mentor to him. Flake said McCain's statement will "affect everyone."

"He's been a preeminent voice on speaking out against torture," Flake said. "The laws that we now have, we used the Army field manual as a guide -- that was his bill. He was the main motivation behind that, so his voice matters here. I'm glad that he's spoken up.

While the vast majority of Republicans have already indicated they plan to support or are leaning toward supporting Haspel, the GOP's majority is narrow. With McCain out and Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, vowing to vote "no," the GOP can't afford to lose many more votes without winning broader Democratic support.

Haspel is back on the Hill on Thursday, meeting with those undecided Democratic senators from red or purple states, including Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

McCain's opposition to Haspel was not able to sway one of his closest allies in the Senate: Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

"I intend to support Gina Haspel to serve as the first female Director of the CIA," Graham said in his statement. "Ms. Haspel has rejected the interrogation policies of the past. She is fully committed to following the law that prevents future abuses. This law, among others, includes the Detainee Treatment Act which I helped author. Gina Haspel should be confirmed as soon as possible as we live in a time of continuing threats."

Graham's statement was a positive development for GOP leaders, because along with Flake, he was seen as among the most likely Republicans for Haspel's opponents to win over, given his close relationship to McCain, though Graham has disagreed with the Arizona senator before on other key votes.

RELATED: John McCain, Lindsey Graham get emotional describing friendship: 'I love him to death'

John Cornyn, the Senate's No. 2 Republican, said he still believes that Haspel should be confirmed, despite McCain's statement to his colleagues.

"I have a lot of respect for Sen. McCain, but we haven't had a more qualified CIA director perhaps ever, and I think we need to have somebody in charge at CIA during a time when we have unprecedented threats and so I hope we confirm Ms. Haspel," he told reporters Thursday.

Later Thursday, Flake sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking for a Haspel-related report to be made available to all senators. The Durham report, as its known on Capitol Hill, is the Justice Department investigation into the destruction of the CIA tapes on enhanced interrogation. Democrats have also been calling for the letter to be made available to all members of the chamber, but Flake is the first Republican senator to do so.

Flake -- a constant critic of President Donald Trump -- told CNN Thursday morning he and McCain have often shared similar views about the harm of using enhanced interrogation technique.

"I met with him last Friday but we didn't discuss this," Flake said. "So I may see if I can reach him today but I've always shared his views on this issue he knows more than anybody about torture obviously and I respect his views."

RELATED: Kamala Harris says she will vote against Gina Haspel

Haspel's nomination seemed to be moving in a positive direction Wednesday after her confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, announced his support as did Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, who is considered a moderate in her party. But both of those commitments came before McCain's statement.

"I believe Gina Haspel is a patriot who loves our country and has devoted her professional life to its service and defense," McCain, who himself was tortured during the Vietnam war, said in a statement Wednesday evening. "However, Ms. Haspel's role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture's immorality is disqualifying. I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 149940

Reported Deaths: 3779
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10097104
Hinds9984199
Harrison7116110
Jackson6360119
Rankin5588103
Lee509195
Madison4799106
Forrest383186
Jones357688
Lauderdale3496147
Lafayette326051
Washington3179107
Lamar291550
Oktibbeha245462
Bolivar241384
Lowndes237364
Panola222350
Neshoba2206118
Marshall217250
Leflore205590
Pontotoc199928
Monroe198177
Sunflower191655
Lincoln190865
Warren176857
Tate169851
Union167325
Copiah164140
Pike162658
Yazoo156039
Scott154829
Itawamba152935
Pearl River152167
Alcorn151328
Coahoma150543
Simpson148353
Prentiss146230
Adams141950
Grenada140945
Leake134944
Holmes130861
George125524
Tippah125230
Covington123439
Winston122224
Hancock121139
Wayne117923
Marion116646
Attala113034
Tishomingo109442
Chickasaw107632
Newton105629
Tallahatchie97027
Clay91327
Clarke90553
Jasper82822
Stone77014
Walthall76928
Calhoun75513
Montgomery74525
Carroll72415
Lawrence71814
Smith71316
Yalobusha71327
Noxubee71017
Perry67026
Tunica61019
Greene60322
Claiborne58616
Jefferson Davis57017
Amite54014
Humphreys53619
Benton49318
Quitman4927
Webster44314
Kemper43618
Wilkinson39822
Jefferson35211
Franklin3395
Choctaw3357
Sharkey30917
Issaquena1164
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 244993

Reported Deaths: 3572
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson32314500
Mobile19859361
Madison13223148
Tuscaloosa13049154
Montgomery12342236
Shelby1031577
Baldwin873398
Lee775766
Morgan662650
Calhoun6301119
Etowah627666
Marshall627255
Houston525638
DeKalb485536
Cullman439442
Limestone425145
St. Clair419555
Lauderdale407854
Elmore406864
Walker3657111
Talladega351454
Jackson320423
Colbert311942
Blount292240
Autauga273542
Franklin252633
Coffee245415
Dale232654
Dallas226232
Chilton223438
Russell22193
Covington218934
Escambia198331
Chambers176850
Tallapoosa176391
Pike158614
Clarke158419
Marion140236
Winston133023
Lawrence127936
Pickens123518
Geneva12218
Marengo121524
Bibb117917
Barbour117310
Butler116541
Randolph102921
Cherokee102224
Hale97031
Clay91924
Fayette91616
Washington91219
Henry8546
Lowndes79929
Monroe78911
Cleburne77214
Macon73722
Crenshaw71130
Bullock69619
Perry6886
Conecuh68414
Lamar6798
Wilcox63518
Sumter58122
Greene42618
Choctaw42213
Coosa3444
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