Maine’s two U.S. senators say they have plenty of questions for Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.
Both Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and independent U.S. Sen. Angus King serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which will get a chance to question Haspel on Wednesday. They’re expected to play key roles in Haspel’s confirmation, but neither say they have decided how they will vote.
Collins says a now declassified report clears concerns about Haspel’s role in the destruction of videotapes of prisoner interrogations that some consider torture. But many questions remain.
“What did she know about what is called the enhanced interrogation program?” she says. “That includes waterboarding, which I consistently have said is completely unacceptable and tantamount to torture.”
Haspel has drawn fire from several Democratic senators for varying answers explaining her involvement in the controversial interrogation program. King, who caucuses with the Democrats, says he had a good private meeting with Haspel to discuss her nomination — but has further questions for her.
“I’m very concerned about some of the issues that have been raised with connection to this nomination, but I will reserve judgment until the hearing,” he says.
Both senators say they want to learn more about Haspel’s 33-year career working mostly undercover at the CIA. Collins says while it’s important that as many questions are asked in the public session as possible, there will be a private hearing by the committee to ask the nominee about activities that are still classified as secret.
Collins wants unambiguous answers to questions involving her career at the agency, and also wants to hear how independent Haspel will deal with Trump.
“What would she do if the president of the United States ordered a re-instituting of that kind interrogation of detainees? What would her response be?” she says.
With dozens of Democrats saying they will vote against her, support from Maine’s senators could be pivotal.
On the Republican side, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has said he will vote against her. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona is battling cancer and not expected to vote. And not all Republican senators have announced how they will vote, adding to the uncertainty.