Democrats used Gina Haspel’s nomination to lead the CIA to score points with the party’s anti-Trump liberal base, as senators and Senate hopefuls competed with each other Wednesday to prove they were taking a tough stance against her.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a former chairwoman of the intelligence committee who’s in a tough primary battle back home in California, suggested Ms. Haspel was hiding something from the public about her role in “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as waterboarding.
Not to be outdone, her chief primary opponent, state Sen. Kevin de Leon released his own list of questions he would have lobbed at Ms. Haspel had he been on the committee that grilled her Wednesday — including demanding to know why she didn’t resign from the agency to protest the interrogations of terrorism suspects.
Sen. Kamala Harris, another California Democrat who’s thought to be eyeing a 2020 presidential bid, weighed in with some of the toughest questions of the day, repeatedly demanding Ms. Haspel declare the interrogation tactics used by the CIA to be immoral — even if they were legal.
The highly publicized event on Capitol Hill was broadcast out across the country on C-SPAN and also carried live by cable news networks. Protesters interrupted the proceedings in the room, and keyboard warriors on social media battled over what Ms. Haspel said.
Opposition to the Bush-era interrogation techniques has become a tenet of faith for liberal activists. The Democratic Party platform has an anti-torture plank.
That virtually guaranteed opposition for Ms. Haspel, who reportedly oversaw interrogations at one “black site” prison in Thailand, and who later helped erase tapes that showed the “enhanced interrogations.”
Add that to Democrats’ overwhelming opposition to President Trump’s high-profile nominees, and Ms. Haspel has become a political punching bag.
“Ultimately, what this comes down to is the Democrats in the Senate simply cannot accept the fact that Donald Trump is the president,” Sen. Tom Cotton, Alabama Republican, told Fox News....Mr. Cotton said former President Obama’s two CIA directors, John O. Brennan and Leon E. Panetta, and his director of national security, James R. Clapper, support her nomination.One Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, broke with party leaders and announced his plans to cast his vote for Mrs. Haspel.Facing re-election in a state that Mr. Trump won by 42 points, Mr. Manchin showered the nominee with praise during her hearing Wednesday.“To be as safe as we have in a troubled world, a dangerous world, with a terrorist’s mentality, I want to thank you on behalf of every West Virginian in this country for the job you all do,” Mr. Manchin said.He proved to be an outlier, as the other Democrats on the committee peppered her with questions over whether she would be a check on Mr. Trump.Ms. Harris demanded Ms. Haspel declare the CIA’s interrogations immoral. The nominee refused, instead saying she wouldn’t second-guess her colleagues, but saying on her watch the CIA