Maine’s senators split on their support for Gina Haspel’s nomination by President Trump to become the next director of the CIA, with Sen. Susan Collins saying she will vote for Haspel’s confirmation and Sen. Angus King saying he will vote against it.

Collins, a Republican, and King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, both issued statements Wednesday evening following Haspel’s private meeting the Senate Intelligence Committee, on which King and Collins both serve. Haspel’s open confirmation hearing was held before the committee Wednesday morning.

The committee will reconvene at some point to vote on Haspel’s nomination and make a recommendation to the full Senate, where she will face a confirmation vote. Haspel would become the first woman to lead the agency.

“After careful consideration, I will vote for the confirmation of Gina Haspel to become the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency,” Collins said in a statement. “Ms. Haspel is an accomplished intelligence professional who will bring 33 years of experience to her new role.

“She has dedicated her entire life to the service of our country and has performed extraordinarily well in a number of challenging positions – often, in some of the most dangerous places in the world.”

King, however, issued a statement in which he said, “I have concluded that I do not believe she is the right person to lead this important agency and will vote no on her nomination.”

King said Haspel’s experience and qualifications are solid, adding “If that were the only criteria for this position, I would vote to confirm, but there are additional and important circumstances of her service to weigh.”

King criticized Haspel’s alleged lack of transparency regarding her involvement with the CIA’s detention and interrogation program and the destruction of videotapes related to the program, which involved waterboarding.

“While Acting Director Haspel did assert that she would refuse to restart CIA’s detention and interrogation program, she did not provide much needed clarity about her reported role overseeing the program or the destruction of the videotapes.”

Collins also addressed the destruction of the videotapes, citing a report by an acting director during the Obama administration that exonerated Haspel of involvement in their destruction.

Collins also brought up the issue of waterboarding when she and King were involved in questioning Haspel during her appearance before the committee Wednesday morning.

“As a candidate, President Trump repeatedly expressed his support for waterboarding. In fact, he said we should go beyond waterboarding. So if the CIA has a high-value terrorism suspect in its custody, and the president gave you a direct order to waterboard that suspect, what would you do?” Collins asked.

“Senator, I would advise – I do not believe the president would ask me to do that,” Haspel said, going on to say “that the CIA is not the right place to conduct interrogations.”

During his questioning of Haspel, King pressed her about the destruction of the tapes.

“Was it a matter of coincidence that this decision was made to destroy the tapes in the same week that two major stories appeared in American newspapers, the Leven Amendment was being considered, and the McCain Amendment was on the floor of the U.S. Senate, was it a mere coincidence that after three years of delay, the decision was taken to destroy the tapes?” King asked.

“Senator I don’t believe, in the director of operations front office, we were aware of legislation, the lawyers may have been aware. I do not believe we were aware,” Haspel replied.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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