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: 350070

Reported Deaths: 7590
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds24512449
DeSoto23513283
Harrison21172335
Rankin15798293
Jackson15735254
Madison11171227
Lee10903180
Jones9223169
Forrest9027163
Lauderdale8087244
Lamar724890
Lowndes7199152
Lafayette6631125
Washington5661140
Pearl River5357154
Oktibbeha503198
Bolivar5004134
Warren4817128
Panola4812112
Marshall4739106
Pontotoc452473
Hancock440388
Neshoba4401181
Union438979
Monroe4369138
Lincoln4228116
Pike3739114
Leflore3676125
Alcorn355374
Tate354988
Sunflower351094
Adams347490
Scott346677
Yazoo342977
Copiah330869
Simpson327191
Itawamba317281
Coahoma315685
Tippah312869
Prentiss302563
Covington302384
Marion289882
Leake288676
Wayne280945
George277351
Grenada272188
Newton266864
Tishomingo240770
Winston238084
Stone235338
Jasper234748
Attala228674
Chickasaw221460
Holmes202574
Clay201954
Clarke189580
Tallahatchie185642
Calhoun183232
Smith183036
Yalobusha173641
Walthall150449
Lawrence145426
Greene141935
Amite139144
Noxubee137235
Perry136138
Montgomery133944
Carroll127031
Webster124332
Jefferson Davis119834
Tunica116127
Benton107825
Claiborne105931
Kemper104429
Humphreys102333
Franklin88424
Quitman86319
Choctaw83119
Wilkinson79332
Jefferson72228
Sharkey51918
Issaquena1746
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 592417

Reported Deaths: 11542
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson861091591
Mobile49771865
Madison37714533
Shelby27501259
Tuscaloosa27344465
Montgomery26343628
Baldwin25860329
Lee17336181
Calhoun15498334
Morgan15225291
Etowah15060370
Marshall13198236
Houston12191293
Elmore10977219
St. Clair10852252
Limestone10816158
Cullman10610206
Lauderdale10305254
DeKalb9594192
Talladega9005188
Walker7840288
Autauga7615114
Jackson7431117
Blount7417139
Colbert6752142
Coffee6443132
Dale5723117
Russell482243
Chilton4810117
Covington4804125
Franklin462781
Tallapoosa4571156
Escambia451083
Chambers3987125
Dallas3751163
Clarke372263
Marion3470107
Pike334079
Lawrence3277100
Winston300773
Bibb292865
Geneva288383
Marengo262967
Barbour253761
Pickens247762
Butler242472
Hale236778
Fayette228165
Henry216545
Monroe204541
Randolph202844
Cherokee200748
Washington186839
Macon171552
Crenshaw170658
Clay167159
Cleburne161845
Lamar151938
Lowndes146255
Wilcox132331
Bullock126542
Conecuh122132
Coosa119529
Perry111228
Sumter110633
Greene99337
Choctaw64425
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