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Controversial nominee Gina Haspel confirmed as first female CIA director

Gina Haspel was confirmed Thursday to be ...

Posted: May 18, 2018 4:39 AM
Updated: May 18, 2018 4:39 AM

Gina Haspel was confirmed Thursday to be the first female director of the CIA with the help of votes from a half-dozen Senate Democrats.

Haspel was confirmed in a 54-45 vote, the culmination of a roller-coaster nomination that appeared to be in danger at several points after she was abruptly selected by President Donald Trump in March.

Three Republicans opposed Haspel's nomination: Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Jeff Flake of Arizona and John McCain of Arizona, although McCain did not vote because he's battling brain cancer at home.

But Haspel secured enough votes to win confirmation with the backing of six Democrats, including Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Most of the Democratic votes in favor of Haspel came from senators who are up for re-election in November in states that Trump won in 2016, including Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Bill Nelson of Florida.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire also voted in favor of Haspel's confirmation.

Democrats who backed Haspel pointed to her 33-year CIA career, 32 years of which was spent undercover, as well as her broad support from former intelligence officials, including many senior Obama administration officials.

"Gina Haspel is among one of the most qualified people to be nominated to be director of the CIA," Warner said. "I feel safer knowing the CIA has Miss Haspel at the helm. ... I believe Gina Haspel should be confirmed. I look forward to supporting her."

But Haspel faced a barrage of criticism from some Democrats and human rights groups after she was picked in March to succeed Mike Pompeo as the nation's top spy, over her role in the George W. Bush administration's detention and interrogation program.

The criticism came on two fronts: Haspel ran a CIA black site in Thailand in 2002 where detainees were brutally interrogated with tactics that critics say is torture. And she drafted the cable that her boss sent to destroy dozens of CIA interrogation tapes in 2005.

RELATED: CIA releases memo clearing Haspel over destruction of waterboarding tapes

"What I can say is her classified comments about her background have been as troubling as her public testimony," Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on the Senate floor Thursday.

The attacks on Haspel's record made Trump administration officials nervous about her nomination, especially after Paul announced his opposition, which meant Democrats had the ability to block Haspel's confirmation.

Alternatives to Haspel were tossed around within the administration, and Haspel herself offered to withdraw ahead of her confirmation hearing.

But the White House pushed forward on Haspel, and in her confirmation hearing last week she did enough to secure votes from Democrats who were on the fence, even as she repeatedly danced around questions about whether she thought the Bush-era interrogation program was immoral.

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, said that Haspel has "consistently proven herself as a strong leader" on the Senate floor Thursday.

Haspel took one more step this week to get wavering Democrats on her side, sending Warner a letter on Tuesday in which she acknowledged that the interrogation program did damage to the CIA and should not have been conducted, which she didn't say in her public hearing.

Haspel's critics argued she still wouldn't say if she thought the interrogation program was immoral. And they expressed frustration that the CIA -- and Haspel herself -- refused to make public a full accounting of her CIA career and her role in the interrogation program.

They argued that the CIA selectively released details publicly about Haspel's career -- like the 2011 internal CIA report that cleared her of wrongdoing in the tapes' destruction -- in order to bolster her nomination.

The CIA did make classified materials about Haspel's record available to senators. But several of her opponents pointed to the fact that the Justice Department's report from the special counsel who investigated the destruction of the tapes was available only to senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and not the full body.

"My questions about Ms. Haspel's role in the destruction of videotapes relevant to discussions occurring in Congress regarding the program have not been adequately answered," Flake said in a statement announcing his opposition.

Burr, who argued that the report shouldn't have been made available to the Senate at all, said the CIA declassified everything that it was able to.

"She has earned the respect of the agency workforce, of her peers, of Republicans, of Democrats, of military officers, of civilian security leaders, evidenced by the number of letters received in support of her nomination too numerous to read," Burr said on the Senate floor.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 143879

Reported Deaths: 3676
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto952799
Hinds9520193
Harrison6801105
Jackson6043116
Rankin521996
Lee477094
Madison4595102
Forrest360685
Jones341687
Lauderdale3340142
Lafayette312047
Washington3043106
Lamar273849
Bolivar237583
Oktibbeha237460
Lowndes227562
Neshoba2170113
Panola210347
Marshall206547
Leflore200389
Pontotoc192527
Monroe188877
Sunflower188754
Lincoln183664
Warren171757
Tate163049
Pike159958
Union159025
Copiah158840
Yazoo149538
Scott149429
Coahoma146742
Itawamba144433
Simpson143153
Alcorn142724
Pearl River142067
Prentiss138426
Grenada135844
Adams134148
Leake131643
Holmes124261
George121523
Tippah120430
Covington116434
Winston115824
Wayne115522
Hancock113337
Marion109046
Attala106133
Tishomingo105542
Newton102829
Chickasaw102132
Tallahatchie94727
Clarke88153
Clay86226
Jasper80421
Walthall73728
Montgomery71925
Calhoun71213
Stone71014
Carroll70114
Lawrence69814
Noxubee68917
Smith68616
Yalobusha67626
Perry63925
Tunica59519
Greene58222
Claiborne57416
Jefferson Davis53817
Humphreys52318
Amite50714
Benton48217
Quitman4766
Webster41614
Kemper40615
Wilkinson38422
Jefferson33511
Franklin3155
Sharkey30617
Choctaw3057
Issaquena1094
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 232506

Reported Deaths: 3457
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson30318491
Mobile19260356
Tuscaloosa12446148
Madison12204146
Montgomery12000232
Shelby971276
Baldwin819984
Lee750464
Morgan610447
Calhoun5964113
Etowah585764
Marshall579453
Houston503338
DeKalb460835
Cullman409636
Limestone400844
St. Clair396055
Elmore391061
Lauderdale378353
Walker348096
Talladega334042
Colbert294341
Jackson290524
Blount275436
Autauga261739
Franklin243633
Coffee230315
Dale225454
Dallas219631
Russell21753
Chilton216137
Covington212333
Escambia194031
Tallapoosa168590
Chambers167548
Clarke154919
Pike154714
Marion133935
Winston122523
Lawrence121436
Geneva11678
Marengo116424
Barbour116010
Pickens114118
Bibb113617
Butler113341
Randolph99521
Cherokee98524
Hale91531
Washington89818
Clay88823
Henry8386
Fayette83116
Lowndes78529
Monroe76811
Cleburne74214
Crenshaw70030
Macon69420
Bullock68919
Conecuh66814
Perry6686
Wilcox62318
Lamar6227
Sumter55322
Choctaw41713
Greene39917
Coosa3064
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