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Sen. King Says He Can't Support Haspel's Nomination To Lead The CIA


Senator Angus King is an independent from Maine. He sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and he joins us now.

Senator, thanks for being back on the show.

ANGUS KING: Glad to be with you.

MARTIN: I remember speaking with you a few weeks ago about Gina Haspel. And at that point, you said you were undecided about whether or not she should lead the CIA. You announced late yesterday after hearing her answer questions that you will not support her nomination. Why?

KING: Well, I went into the hearing with some concerns, particularly about the destruction of the videotapes in 2005. This was long after her assignment out to the field. But what happened yesterday was I went in with concerns, and instead of having those concerns alleviated, they were raised. And I felt that she wasn't forthcoming. Her answers were parsed and sometimes sort of lawyerly. For example, I asked her in writing before the hearing - what was your role in the management and operation of this program? I didn't get an answer.

She talked - she said, well, I wasn't involved in the initiation or the establishment of the program. That wasn't what I asked. I asked her again in the public session. She said, I'll answer it in the private - in the closed session. I never got a straight answer all day on that. And that disturbed me because the head of the CIA is somebody that you have to be able to get full information from, not have to pry it out of them.

MARTIN: But didn't she say unequivocally that she would not reinstate the waterboarding program?

KING: She did say that. And that's really not the issue that I'm focused on. What I focused on was the destruction of evidence in light of an impending congressional investigation. That's entirely separate from whether or not the waterboarding is an appropriate program. But she left enough ambiguity that - on the underlying issue that I was concerned about it.

And, for example, I had to ask her three or four times, who makes the decision as to what to declassify with regard to your record? And there was a lot of equivocation, and finally she conceded it was her. She's making the decisions about what should be released and not be released to the Congress and to the public about her record at the agency. I have a real problem with that. If we get the good part of her record, how do we know that there aren't things in the record that the Congress should know? And as I say, in the closed session later in the day, my concerns in that regard only were heightened.

MARTIN: Which is a problem with someone who has spent most of her career undercover. So what do you think this means for her nomination? Do you think she gets through?

KING: Well, it's going to be very close. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has announced that he's going to vote for her. I think it'll come down to a few Republicans. John McCain, of course, isn't here, but he announced his opposition. That may have some weight because he's the towering moral voice on this question. He has more authority and credibility on this issue than anyone else. And for him to make that unequivocal statement last night, I think, will have some influence. So it's going to be close and difficult.

MARTIN: We'll have to leave it there. Independent Senator Angus King of Maine.

Thanks so much.

KING: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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