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Democratic senators remain coy on eve of Gina Haspel's confirmation hearing

Trump's CIA director faces tough vote

On the eve of what is widely expected to be a contentious confirmation hearing for CIA Director nominee Gina Haspel, few Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee were willing to tip their hand on how they intended to vote. Most, however, said much would depend on how much Haspel would be willing to divulge about her own background and about the choices she made over the course of her more than 30-year clandestine career at the CIA.

"I'm very concerned," said Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, Tuesday, noting she was still reviewing documents recently released by the CIA.

"I'm leaning towards a 'no' unless we have a very difference stance from her and from the agency," said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico. "She could choose to make this a much more transparent process."

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, who met with Haspel on Tuesday morning, likewise said he believed the CIA – or Haspel herself – could have declassified much more about her background than had been made publicly available to date. "Based on this session," he said of their meeting, "tomorrow is on its way to being a secret confirmation process," he said.

"It is going to take place in public yet I believe, certainly as of now, people will not know much of what the nominee was doing during that crucial period and will not know a number of the facts I know that relate to her record and who she really is," Wyden said.

Though he declined to say his vote was a definitive "no," Wyden said he hadn't seen anything that would alter his original stance. He also said he appreciated that Haspel took the time to meet and declined to say whether any of the still-classified elements of her background were themselves disqualifying. "I can't get into those details," he said, "even though I believe the American people deserve to know a fair amount of what I was just told."

Sens. Angus King, I-Maine, and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Virginia, both declined to indicate how they were leaning and said they would share their views after the hearing.

Gina Haspel reportedly considered withdrawing CIA director nomination

So did Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, who has spent more time than most on the committee with Haspel, and who has said in the past she had spoken at length with the nominee about her involvement in the interrogation program. "I know she deeply regrets it, and that's important to me," Feinstein told the Sacramento Bee Editorial Board last week.

Of her vote Wednesday, Feinstein told CBS News simply, "You'll find out tomorrow."

Feinstein – along with Sens. Warner, Heinrich, Manchin and Wyden –  is among the five Democrats on the committee who were in office at the time of former director John Brennan's confirmation hearing and who, along with Sen. King, who is an Independent, voted in favor of his nomination.

Haspel's supporters have drawn delicate, if perceptibly embittered, parallels between her case and that of Brennan, who was a senior official at the CIA at the time enhanced interrogation techniques were implemented. Brennan has acknowledged he was aware of the program, but that he raised personal objections internally and, in its aftermath, publicly disavowed techniques like waterboarding. He has also said any future president would have to "bring his own bucket" if he wanted to reinstitute the measure.

Haspel is expected to convey a similar message before the committee – one she has already told senators in private. According to excerpts of her prepared remarks released by the CIA on Tuesday, Haspel will tell the committee, "Having served in that tumultuous time, I can offer you my personal commitment, clearly and without reservation, that under my leadership CIA will not restart such a detention and interrogation program." 

Her confirmation hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. ET.

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