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CIA Nominee Gina Haspel Meets Senators Even as Questions Remain

Some senators still want more disclosed about her records, history at the agency

Senators confirmed Gina Haspel to become CIA director before finishing work for the week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Senators confirmed Gina Haspel to become CIA director before finishing work for the week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

CIA Director nominee Gina Haspel paid courtesy calls on Capitol Hill as senators returned to town Monday afternoon, but concerns regarding agency transparency about her record remained.

Haspel met with a number of key members of the Senate Intelligence Committee Monday, including Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich.

After the meeting, the New Mexico Democrat told Roll Call he was continuing to push for additional material to be declassified so that Wednesday’s open confirmation hearing can be more than just a series of questions being deferred to a closed setting.

“For us to have a real conversation about this, we have to have enough context to be able to to that,” Heinrich said. “That’s exactly why we’re doing this dance, is to have enough information to have a real confirmation hearing.”

UNITED STATES - MAY 7: Gina Haspel, nominee to be director of the CIA, and Marc Short, White House legislative affairs director, arrive in Hart Building for meetings with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and other senators on May 7, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Haspel and Marc Short, White House legislative affairs director, arrive in the Hart Senate Office Building for meetings with Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., and other senators on May 7, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Speaking with a larger group of reporters, Heinrich noted that, as it stands currently, he really cannot entertain public questions about Haspel’s involvement with the use of torture techniques during the George W. Bush administration.

“I can’t really get into the details here, because I know things obviously that the American people don’t, and we have to approach that information in a responsible way, but I think that can be done,” Heinrich said. “She can be part of that process.”

Watch: Expect a Full-Throated Push to Confirm Haspel as Next CIA Chief

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Haspel had scheduled meetings Monday with a trio of committee Democrats ahead of Wednesday’s confirmation hearing. She met first with West Virginia’s Joe Manchin III followed by California’s Dianne Feinstein and New Mexico’s Heinrich.

She was meeting later in the day with other senators, including the vice chairman of the Intelligence panel, Sen. Mark Warner.

The Democrat from Virginia sent a letter to Haspel on Monday, a copy of which was obtained by Roll Call, signaling frustration with the scope of the material the CIA was publicly disclosing about her background.

“While it is certainly complicated to declassify locations and work performed in the field, to date the Agency has not even been able to make public all of the leadership and supervisory positions you held at CIA headquarters,” Warner wrote. “I am also concerned that by failing to declassify much about your work at headquarters, including decisions that could be relevant to the nomination, the Agency has opened itself up to the criticism that it is only releasing favorable materials while suppressing related items that could reflect negatively.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Haspel was thinking about the integrity of the agency when she floated withdrawing her nomination, which the Washington Post had reported was discussed on Friday.

“If she felt that her nomination would have been a problem for that and for the agency, then she wanted to do everything that she could to protect the agency,” Sanders said.

But Sanders made clear the Haspel nomination would be moving forward.

“She is 100 percent committed to going through this confirmation process,” Sanders said.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, a member of the Intelligence Committee, told reporters she expected Haspel would do well at Wednesday’s hearing. Many senators on both sides of the aisle have reserved judgement until after the confirmation hearing.

“I give her a lot of credit for putting the agency ahead of her personal ambition, but I’m glad she decided to stay,” Cornyn said of the offer to step aside. “I hate to see good people who served, in this case, for 33 years …who really kept the country safe, be run out of office before they have a chance to defend themselves in the committee.”

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.

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