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Kamala Harris says she will vote against Gina Haspel

Updated 6:15 PM ET, Wed May 9, 2018

Washington (CNN) - Sen. Kamala Harris came out against President Donald Trump's pick to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel, on Wednesday, telling CNN's Jake Tapper she plans to vote against the nomination.

"I intend to vote against her as the nominee," the California Democrat said on "The Lead with Jake Tapper." "I will not vote to confirm her as the next director of the CIA."

Harris said her decision to oppose Haspel's nomination is "not about the integrity of the men and women of that agency or its mission" but rather "about whether this particular person should head that agency." The senator said she is concerned that Haspel "is not the best signal to the workforce of that agency, to the American people or to our neighbors around the globe."

Earlier on Wednesday, Haspel, a 33-year veteran of the agency who is currently serving as acting director, vowed not to restart the CIA's controversial detention and interrogation program during a confirmation hearing by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

However, Haspel declined to answer "yes or no" during a tense exchange with Harris when the senator asked whether the use of interrogation tactics that critics say amount to torture was immoral.

"I believe that CIA did extraordinary work to prevent another attack on this country given the legal tools that we were authorized to use," Haspel said in response to the senator's question.

If Haspel wins confirmation from the Senate, she will be the first woman to lead the CIA.

When Tapper asked Harris about that, the senator said, "It's very important to have women in all these positions, but I'm not going to accept a false choice that you either accept a woman or you accept someone who has not admitted that torture is morally wrong. I think we can have both. There are plenty of qualified women in the CIA whose names should be put forward, for the nomination and for higher positions within the agency."

Haspel did indicate during Wednesday's hearing that she would not carry out an order from the President if she found it to be morally objectionable.

"My moral compass is strong," Haspel said. "I would not allow CIA to undertake activity that I thought was immoral, even if it was technically legal. I would absolutely not permit it."

The Republican National Committee pushed back on Harris' comments Wednesday, taking aim at the senator who is frequently talked about as a potential 2020 Democratic presidential contender.

"With an eye to 2020, Kamala Harris never misses an opportunity to grandstand in front of the cameras, even if it's at the expense of a 33-year CIA veteran who has risked her life to protect this country," RNC spokesman Michael Ahrens said in a statement.

Several Democrats, including Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Brian Schatz of Hawaii, have now said they will oppose Haspel's nomination.

At least one Democrat plans to vote for Haspel. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said on Wednesday that he will vote for her. In a statement, Manchin called Haspel a "person of great character."


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