Key senator to vote against CIA nominee Gina Haspel

A key Democratic senator said he would not vote for Gina Haspel, Donald Trump's pick for CIA director, after a meeting Monday at which she failed to satisfactorily answer questions about her background in the agency, an aide said.

The meeting with Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., a member of the Intelligence Committee, took place in a secure space with classified documents two days ahead of Haspel's confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill.

"This is about trust, and the public is not being afforded an open and honest debate about the nominee," Heinrich said after the meeting. "There are questions that absolutely need to be answered publicly, and given her position, she can make the choice to do so. As the nominee, she owes that to the public."

"If these answers aren't going to be provided to the public, how can we trust that the nominee will be open to oversight and accountability?" he asked.

The committee's vote has not yet been scheduled.

Haspel, a career operations officer who is the agency's deputy director, considered withdrawing her nomination last week amid concerns over her role in the CIA's use of harsh interrogation techniques, officials told NBC News.

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Nominee to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Gina Haspel arrives for meetings with Senators on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Acting CIA Director Gina Haspel is sworn in prior to testifying at her Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director nominee Gina Haspel (R) attends Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's ceremonial swearing-in at the State Department in Washington, U.S. May 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Gina Haspel, a veteran CIA clandestine officer picked by U.S. President Donald Trump to head the Central Intelligence Agency, is shown in this handout photograph released on March 13, 2018. CIA/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Nominee to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Gina Haspel arrives for meetings with Senators on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Acting CIA Director Gina Haspel testifies at her Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director nominee Gina Haspel (C) attends Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's ceremonial swearing-in at the State Department in Washington, U.S. May 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
UNITED STATES - MAY 7: Gina Haspel, nominee to become CIA director, arrives for her meeting with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in the Hart Senate Office Building on Monday, May 7, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Acting CIA Director Gina Haspel testifies at her Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
UNITED STATES - MAY 7: Gina Haspel, nominee to be director of the CIA, arrives 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)
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Haspel was once the base chief at a secret prison in Thailand where an al Qaeda detainee was waterboarded and confined to a box, several officials have told NBC News.

Haspel later wrote a cable that included an order from her boss instructing CIA officers to shred video of interrogation sessions.

In a statement announcing his opposition to Haspel's nomination, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said in March that her role at the prison should "disqualify" her from the director's job. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has also questioned her role in using "enhanced interrogation."

It's unclear how many members will support Haspel, but she's meeting with senators ahead of her hearing to address concerns.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said he still has questions even after meeting with Haspel. He said he's waiting to see what she says at her hearing.

If Paul maintains his opposition and McCain is absent, at least one Democrat must support her for her confirmation to pass.

Losing the support of key Democrats like Heinrich makes Haspel's prospects for confirmation more daunting. Heinrich and other Democrats have sought to declassify CIA documents that could help clarify her work at the agency.

But Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., pushed back against such requests on Monday, calling them "a comfortable tool for them to hide behind."

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