Hawley Campaign Not Buying McCaskill's 'Classified' Reason for No Vote on Haspel

McCaskill says she can't disclose why she opposed newly instated CIA director

Claire McCaskill
Claire McCaskill / Getty Images
May 22, 2018

Republican Josh Hawley's campaign is keeping the pressure on Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) over her vote against confirming CIA director Gina Haspel, who was officially instated on Monday.

McCaskill is working to evade the charge that her vote against Haspel was based on partisan politics by saying she had real concerns about Haspel that she can't disclose because they're based on classified material.

"I cross-examined her on the classified material," McCaskill said over the weekend, "and I was very uncomfortable with her answers."

"I wish I could explain to all my constituents the details of all that, but the law will not allow me to do so," she said. "I can tell you this, if everyone in Missouri read and listened to her answers to the questions I asked, I believe that a vast majority of Missourians would have voted the same way I did."

The Hawley campaign says it's not buying McCaskill's assurance that a majority of Missourians would agree with her if they knew her secret reason for opposing Haspel.

The campaign pointed to support for Haspel by Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, as evidence that there were no legitimate concerns raised regarding Haspel from the classified material on her.

"The number one ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee voted for Gina Haspel," said campaign spokesperson Kelli Ford. "He has read everything anyone can read."

"If Warner can vote for her, so should Senator McCaskill," Ford said.

Hawley has used McCaskill's vote against Haspel, who was pushed over the confirmation threshold by support from six Democrats, to label her "a hard partisan who only cares about obstructing the Trump agenda."

Republican senator Tom Cotton (Ark.) similarly criticized McCaskill for prioritizing "partisan politics over national security."

"McCaskill proved once again that she is so liberal, and so reflexively opposed to the president that she cannot represent Missourians in the Senate," Cotton said.

McCaskill is viewed as one of the most vulnerable senators up for reelection in 2018 due to the wide margin of President Trump’s victory in the state in 2016. Polls show a tight race between McCaskill and Hawley, Missouri's current attorney general.