U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King are holding out judgment on President Donald Trump’s controversial pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency a day ahead of their scheduled grilling of the nominee.
Trump nominated Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel to take over the agency after he named the former director, Mike Pompeo, secretary of state. Haspel is scheduled to be interviewed Wednesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee, of which both Collins and King are members.
Haspel has come under criticism because of her involvement with the use of harsh interrogation techniques on a suspected al-Qaida official in 2002 when she was chief of a secret Thailand prison. Some lawmakers have also complained that documentation about her career in the clandestine services is not available for vetting — including some that she ordered destroyed.
King said in a written statement that he has met with Haspel and remains “very concerned about some of the issues that have been raised” but that he’ll “reserve judgment” until after Wednesday’s hearing.
Collins, who met with Haspel two weeks ago, said in a statement that she has “a number of remaining questions” for Haspel on Wednesday about Haspel’s views on waterboarding and other interrogation techniques that have been outlawed for use by U.S. agencies.
“As a 33-year veteran of the CIA, Gina Haspel has dedicated her entire life to public service, serving in some of the most dangerous places around the world,” Collins said. “As such, she has an extensive record at the agency, some of which has only recently been made public.”
In addition to King and Collins, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee from both parties have expressed concerns about Haspel. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, have both said they will vote against recommending Haspel’s confirmation, which is subject to a later vote in the Senate.
During a media briefing Tuesday, a White House spokesman mentioned both King and Collins in an apparent attempt to pressure them to support Haspel. Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah noted that both senators supported the confirmation of former CIA Director John Brennan, who was also involved in the interrogation program.
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