Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) acknowledged during a radio interview Wednesday that he was leaning toward voting yes to confirm Gina Haspel as CIA director, and he soon after confirmed the nominee will have his vote.
Manchin is a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and had just stepped out of the committee hearing with Haspel to talk to West Virginia radio host Hoppy Kercheval. Manchin praised Haspel for her record of service in the CIA while saying she still has other questions to face.
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"I think that this woman has earned respect from every member of this committee," Manchin said.
After Manchin explained his reasons for respecting Haspel, Kercheval asked if that meant he was leaning toward a "yes" vote.
"The fair statement is I’m very open-minded, leaning towards putting somebody that’s qualified, that’s been vetted and well-thought of," Manchin said.
He noted the people who know her who speak "in glowing terms" about her.
"So we’ll put you down as a lean yes?" Kercheval asked.
"I’m leaning in protecting my country with the best person I can put in that position," he said with a laugh.
"I’m gonna call it a lean yes," the host said.
"Okay," Manchin replied.
Manchin said Haspel dutifully followed the law as far as he could tell, having read "all of the classified and unclassified briefings on her." He noted that people should understand she acted in service to her country after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
"This lady, from everything I’ve seen, has followed the law and the rule, and basically she’s taken her orders and taken them well, and she’s defended our country," he said.
Within hours of the radio interview, Manchin confirmed he would in fact vote yes on Haspel's confirmation.
BREAKING: @Sen_JoeManchin will vote YES on Gina Haspel nomination, he tells me
— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) May 9, 2018
Manchin said in a statement that Haspel's qualifications "make her supremely qualified to serve as our next CIA Director."
After meeting with Gina Haspel, discussing her extensive experience as a CIA agent, and considering her time as Acting Director, I will vote to confirm her to be our next CIA Director. I have found Gina Haspel to be a person of great character. Over her 33 year career as a CIA operations officer, she has worked in some of the most dangerous corners of our world and I have the utmost respect for the sacrifices she has made for our country. She has earned the trust of her colleagues in the intelligence community and her intellect, steady temperament, vast knowledge of threats we face, and dedication to our country are undeniable. These attributes make her supremely qualified to serve as our next CIA Director. As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I take the role of oversight ver seriously and I look forward to working with Gina Haspel to ensure the people of West Virginia and the United States are kept safe.
During the hearing, Haspel responded to Democrats who were much more critical than Manchin. She said there is "no comparison" between terrorists and CIA officers when Sen. Jack Reed (D., R.I.) compared them, and she corrected Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) about a claim that has been retracted related to her service in Thailand.
Republicans have been strong in their support for Haspel. Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) said, "If someone like you cannot be confirmed to head this agency, then who can?"
Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) pointed out that John Brennan was confirmed to be CIA director in the Obama administration without any of the difficulty Haspel is facing, despite him also serving in the George W. Bush administration and having knowledge of the enhanced interrogation program.
Update 3:04 p.m.: This piece was updated with Manchin's confirmation he will vote yes on Gina Haspel's confirmation.