Gina Haspel's path to becoming the next CIA director must now overcome a late new hurdle from John McCain. The Arizona senator issued a statement Wednesday night urging his fellow senators to reject her because of her role in the agency's interrogation tactics under George W. Bush, reports the Arizona Republic. Haspel's nomination appeared to be on track prior to McCain's statement, but the former POW's move provides "possible political cover" to undecided senators, reports Politico. A post at Axios calls McCain's statement "head-turning," but adds that the White House is still confident Haspel will be confirmed. At her confirmation hearing Wednesday, Haspel said she would not restart the discontinued interrogation program, but she also declined to pass any moral judgments on its use in the wake of 9/11.
Haspel "is a patriot who loves our country and has devoted her professional life to its service and defense," said McCain in his statement. "However, Ms. Haspel’s role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture's immorality is disqualifying." Haspel cannot afford to lose votes. The Senate is essentially 50-49 because of McCain's absence, with the GOP's Rand Paul already pledging to vote no and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin coming out in favor of Haspel Wednesday. That puts her on track for approval, but Politico notes that McCain's statement could sway the votes of undecided Republicans Jeff Flake and Mike Lee. (McCain, who is home battling brain cancer, is making controversial plans about his funeral.)