Dem Senator Defends Opposition to Haspel by Saying It Was a ‘Mistake’ to Support Obama’s CIA Nominee

Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich (N.M.) on Wednesday said it was a "mistake" to support John Brennan, former President Barack Obama's nominee for CIA director, when asked whether he and other Democrats are using a double standard in opposing Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump's nominee for the same post.

MSNBC host Katy Tur asked Heinrich during an interview whether he would vote for Haspel if she were an Obama nominee.

"I would not," said Heinrich, prompting Tur to push back.

"Then why did you vote yes for John Brennan for CIA director back in 2013? This is one of the Republicans' concerns," Tur said. "They think that just because she's a Trump nominee there is a vote of no from Democrats and that it's a double standard."

Heinrich, one of the Senate Democrats who Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) named during Haspel's Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday for previously supporting Brennan, defended his vote for the Obama official. The New Mexico Democrat then acknowledged that his vote for Brennan was a "mistake" and that he had called for Brennan to resign from his CIA post at one point during his tenure at the agency.

Brennan was in a "senior manager" position within the CIA during the agency's use of enhanced interrogation techniques, Cotton noted.

"I think we need to hold all CIA directors to the same standard, whether it is John Brennan, whether it is Gina Haspel," Heinrich said. "More importantly, we need someone running that agency that the entire oversight committee feels like they can trust, and that trust just isn't there right now."

In 2014, Heinrich and then-Sen. Mark Udall (D., Colo.), two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for Brennan's resignation after the agency admitted that it spied on the computers of Senate staffers.

Haspel, who has the support of several intelligence officials from the Obama administration, is facing opposition from Democrats because of her involvement with the CIA's controversial interrogation program during the early 2000s after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Haspel has worked for the CIA since 1985, and she would be the first female CIA director if confirmed.