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Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly announced his support for Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the CIA, bolstering her chances to be confirmed by the Senate later this month despite some opposition to her past involvement in interrogation programs.
The Indiana senator issued a statement after meeting with Haspel, saying they had “a tough, frank, and extensive discussion” about her role in the top position at the CIA, as well as her views on controversial enhanced interrogations practices used by the spy agency against terrorist suspects under the Bush administration, according to The Washington Post.
Haspel has come under fire for her history of overseeing a covert CIA site in Thailand where brutal tactics were used against suspected terrorists, including waterboarding, a method widely considered to be torture.
During her confirmation hearing before the Senate, Haspel said she would not restart the interrogation programs used in the past and would resist any efforts from the president to implement the tactics into the U.S. war on terror once again.
“I believe that she has learned from the past, and that the CIA under her leadership can help our country confront serious international threats and challenges,” Donnelly said in the statement released Saturday.
Donnelly is the second democratic senator to announce his support for the CIA nominee, joining Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.). Both senators represent states with widespread support for Trump, and they face tough midterm challenges in November.
Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) are the only Republicans who have publicly said they will not support Haspel, while Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) remains on the fence.
Other democrats are also undecided, but Donnelly's support seems likely to shift the numbers in Haspel's favor despite the opposition she has received.
Opponents of Haspel's confirmation also cited an order given in her name directing CIA agents to destroy tapes of interrogation sessions at so-called “black sites,” secretive prisons for terror suspects.
But her supporters point to her more the 30 years of experience as an undercover operative for the CIA as evidence of her ability to lead the agency.