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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: 338079

Reported Deaths: 7523
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23409440
DeSoto23069280
Harrison20064328
Rankin15119290
Jackson14743251
Madison10806227
Lee10568179
Jones8864169
Forrest8408159
Lauderdale7684243
Lowndes6917151
Lamar683789
Lafayette6502124
Washington5551139
Pearl River5060150
Bolivar4923134
Oktibbeha484798
Panola4739112
Warren4690127
Marshall4670106
Pontotoc442873
Monroe4293137
Union429179
Neshoba4232181
Hancock417788
Lincoln4148116
Pike3605113
Leflore3587125
Tate351488
Alcorn346474
Sunflower344994
Adams338488
Scott336676
Yazoo335673
Simpson319290
Copiah319068
Itawamba312480
Coahoma311585
Tippah300568
Prentiss295063
Covington287183
Marion281780
Leake281575
Wayne274643
Grenada267588
George266251
Newton258964
Tishomingo238070
Winston236284
Jasper227548
Attala223373
Stone219437
Chickasaw217560
Holmes197674
Clay194654
Clarke184480
Tallahatchie182742
Calhoun179432
Smith177535
Yalobusha170240
Walthall144448
Lawrence140026
Greene137634
Amite135643
Noxubee134235
Perry132438
Montgomery131544
Carroll125431
Webster119132
Jefferson Davis114234
Tunica113227
Benton105925
Claiborne104831
Kemper101429
Humphreys99833
Franklin86723
Quitman84319
Choctaw81819
Wilkinson76532
Jefferson70428
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 574737

Reported Deaths: 11492
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson839571589
Mobile46611857
Madison36938532
Tuscaloosa26841465
Shelby26769255
Montgomery25853624
Baldwin24213326
Lee16897181
Calhoun15210332
Morgan14990289
Etowah14721369
Marshall12855235
Houston11661292
Elmore10727217
St. Clair10587250
Limestone10535158
Cullman10323204
Lauderdale10044253
DeKalb9335191
Talladega8797187
Walker7659286
Autauga7456114
Jackson7295117
Blount7233139
Colbert6614142
Coffee6117131
Dale5393117
Russell467742
Chilton4666117
Covington4623125
Franklin447281
Tallapoosa4420157
Escambia425282
Chambers3880125
Dallas3707163
Clarke366462
Marion3413106
Pike326979
Lawrence3211101
Winston293972
Bibb282965
Geneva274283
Marengo259067
Barbour245161
Pickens239662
Butler237672
Hale232378
Fayette225064
Henry206645
Randolph196144
Monroe195041
Cherokee194548
Washington179339
Macon168352
Crenshaw165058
Clay163659
Cleburne159945
Lamar149738
Lowndes144854
Wilcox129831
Bullock126042
Conecuh119530
Coosa116729
Perry109928
Sumter108732
Greene98336
Choctaw63925
Out of AL00
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Columbus
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Thursday will be another very hot and very humid day across Mississippi and Alabama. Many areas will be well above 100 degrees with the heat index, some even as high as 120 degrees in the Delta of Mississippi.
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