WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) is working to convince at least half his colleagues in the Senate to vote for the President's pick to be the nation's next spy chief.
We sat down with him this afternoon to discuss Gina Haspel's qualifications, ties to the Blue Grass state, and torture. The transcript of that interview is below along with a statement from a Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) spokesperson. Paul opposes Haspel's nomination for the post.
Kyle Midura: Why is she the right person for the job in your opinion?
Sen. Mitch McConnell: Well, she is one of the most experienced nominees we've ever had for the CIA. She's a career CIA person, born in Kentucky, went to the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, Wildcat fan. Eminently qualified, she shouldn't be controversial, at all, but this is a pretty partisan environment, and many of President Trump's nominees get roughed up a bit, but she'll be confirmed, and she'll do a great job for America.
KM: Not all of the criticism is coming from the other side of the aisle, just last night, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) suggested she should be disqualified for not stating that torture is immoral, blanketly. How do you respond to those concerns in that vein that Sen. McCain, Sen. [Rand] Paul (R-Kentucky) and others have raised?
MM: Well, I love Sen. McCain, but I simply think he's wrong about this. There's no indication she was involved in doing anything that was illegal at the time of 9/11. The leaders of our Congress were fully-apprised of what was being done, and no one objected at the time. This was a post-9/11 environment. I think we all learned a lesson. It's clear that we're never going to use those techniques again and Gina Haspel under-scored that she was not going to use those techniques.
KM: It looks like at this point you have the votes to get her through the committee process, do you have the votes on the floor, are you putting a full-court press on Sen. Paul to change his mind?
MM: Well, you'll have to ask Sen. Paul about his position but I believe we'll be able to confirm her.
KM: With substantial, is it going to be a narrow margin?
MM: I'm not going to predict the margin, but I think we'll be able to confirm her.
We reached out to Sen. Paul's office for response. Haspel's hearing Wednesday did not assuage his concerns about her. In a statement, Doug Stafford, a political advisor to Sen. Paul writes:
"Senator Rand Paul believes that torture is wrong. He has no problem saying that, and will vote accordingly. We can do better."
Haspel spent much of Thursday in meetings on Capitol Hill with senators who are still on the fence. It's unclear when Haspel's confirmation vote will be held.