Niels Lesniewski

Senate Confirms Gina Haspel to Lead CIA
Bipartisan vote does not follow partisan script

After a number of Democratic senators announced they would support President Donald Trump’s choice of Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel to run the agency, she was easily confirmed Thursday afternoon.

In what has become a bit of a regular routine, Senate leaders reached an agreement to expedite votes on a key national security nominee and prevent any threat of a weekend session.

John McCain’s Advice for the Next Immigration Battle
Memoir coming out next week, just as House members try to force floor debate

It’s fitting that Sen. John McCain’s memoir, likely his last, will arrive just as a bipartisan contingent of House lawmakers is seeking to work around Republican leaders’ objections to moving an immigration bill.

McCain, a longtime supporter of overhauling immigration laws, has some advice for newer colleagues searching for the path to legislative victory, even when their own leadership may not be on board.

Senate Democrats Claim Small Victory on Net Neutrality
Will be taking the debate to the ballot box

Senate Democrats won’t be scoring many legislative victories this year. So Wednesday’s win on a joint resolution that would upend the effort by the Federal Communications Commission to reverse Obama-era regulations on net neutrality was cause for mild celebration.

“A key question for anyone on the campaign trail in 2018 now will be: Do you support net neutrality?” Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts said at a news conference with House and Senate Democratic leaders on the effort to block the Trump administration from rolling back the regulations.

Democrats Focus on 2018 at Ideas Summit, With Eye to 2020
Warren announces new donations to back state legislative efforts

Many of the Senate Democrats at Tuesday’s Center for American Progress Ideas Conference are 2020 presidential contenders and brought to the progressive policy gathering a wide array of political positions, not to mention approaches to their presentations.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who closed the event, focused not so much on individual ideas presented on the stage, but on the nuts-and-bolts importance of winning elections at the state and local level.

Votes Roll in for Haspel After Expressing Regret Over Enhanced Interrogation
Latest comments seem to be enough to get support from Mark Warner

President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the CIA is making it even more clear that the program sanctioning harsh interrogations during the George W. Bush administration should not have taken place.

Gina Haspel, the current acting director of the agency, expanded upon her testimony in a letter dated Monday to Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee.

Harry Reid Treated for Pancreatic Cancer, According to Reports
Condition caught early, says person close to the former majority leader

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid underwent surgery Monday after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The generally grave cancer diagnosis was made early, according to multiple media reports citing sources close to the Nevada Democrat.

Schumer, Trump Align on Jerusalem Policy While Sparring Over Iran deal
Senator praises president on embassy move

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is praising President Donald Trump for following through on designating the U.S. embassy in Israel in Jerusalem.

“In a long overdue move, we have moved our embassy to Jerusalem. Every nation should have the right to choose its capital,” the Democrat from New York said in a statement. “I sponsored legislation to do this two decades ago, and I applaud President Trump for doing it.”

Donnelly Becomes Second Democrat to Support Gina Haspel to Lead the CIA
Indiana senator provides an insurance vote for the Trump nominee

The Senate appears to be moving full speed ahead on confirming Gina Haspel as director of the CIA.

The Intelligence Committee is expected to vote to advance her nomination to the floor during a closed business meeting scheduled for Wednesday morning, and a Saturday morning announcement by Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly further reduced the suspense.

GOP Senators Express Willingness to Skip August Recess, Bundle Spending Bills
16 senators involved include vulnerable incumbent Dean Heller

A group of 16 Republican senators has announced a willingness to work through August if that’s what it takes to complete spending bills and confirm more of President Donald Trump’s nominees.

Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, who has led the effort, hinted Tuesday that a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky would be forthcoming.

Trump Generally Sticks to Hammering Donnelly at Indiana Rally
Could be template for what Senate GOP wants to see from the president

Senate GOP leaders might be smiling after President Donald Trump’s rally Thursday evening.

The raucous event in Elkhart, Indiana, saw Trump deliver one of his typical campaign trail stem-winders, with plenty of reminders about the midterm elections and the importance to the president of replacing Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in November.

McCain Argues Americans Should 'Give a Damn' About the CIA Torturing Terrorists
Opposition to Gina Haspel's confirmation no surprise when you read his book

That Sen. John McCainwants his colleagues to reject President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the CIA should be no surprise — just consider the extent to which his new memoir lays out his deeply held beliefs arguing  against the agency’s use of torture.

The debate over torture techniques in interrogations conducted under the auspices of the Central Intelligence Agency during the George W. Bush administration features prominently in the forthcoming book by the Republican from Arizona.

McCain: Senate Should Reject Gina Haspel Over Torture Involvement
Arizona Republican made statement following Wednesday’s hearing

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain wants the Senate to reject the nomination of Gina Haspel to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Arizona Republican, who has been home in Arizona battling brain cancer and related ailments, said in a statement he was not satisfied by Haspel’s responses regarding her involvement in the agency “enhanced interrogation” effort during the George W. Bush administration.

Manchin’s Backing Likely Ends Haspel Suspense
But there may still be ads encouraging other 2018 Democrats to get behind the CIA nominee

Sen. Joe Manchin III on Wednesday probably ended suspense about whether Gina Haspel will win confirmation as the CIA’s next director.

The West Virginia Democrat formally announced his support for Haspel’s confirmation before all of his colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee finished the classified part of Wednesday’s hearing with the nominee.

Haspel’s Confirmation Hearing Felt Like Deja Vu to 2014 Interrogation Debate
Reporter’s Notebook — An executive summary of Roll Call’s biggest stories, from the reporters themselves

Senate reporter Niels Lesniewski shares his observations covering CIA director nominee Gina Haspel’s confirmation hearing in the Senate today and discusses how they intersected with the torture report that was released in 2014. ...
Gina Haspel Performs Well but Raises More Questions During Hearing
Suggests she has handled declassification decisions about her own background

Nothing Gina Haspel said during the open portion of her Senate confirmation hearing seemed likely to derail her nomination to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, and she picked up some needed Democratic support along the way. 

Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who serves on the Intelligence panel, was the first Democrat out of the gate to support Haspel.

If Not Gina Haspel, Then Who?
Opposition to career officer comes with risk of less palatable alternative

If not Gina Haspel, then who would be behind door No. 2?

Senate Democrats have concerns about Haspel, the CIA director nominee, ahead of her Wednesday confirmation hearing before the Intelligence Committee, but they might want to consider the potential alternatives.

White House: No August Recess Until Appropriations, Nominations Done
Marc Short appeared with Sen. David Perdue and conservative leaders

The White House hopes the Senate will get spending bills done and curtail the nominations backlog before the August recess, but it is backing a call to cut down the break if needed to overcome delays in confirming President Donald Trump’s nominations.

Marc Short, the White House legislative affairs director, made that clear during an event on Capitol Hill Tuesday with conservative leaders, putting the onus on Democrats to move the process along.

CIA Nominee Gina Haspel Meets Senators Even as Questions Remain
Some senators still want more disclosed about her records, history at the agency

CIA Director nominee Gina Haspel paid courtesy calls on Capitol Hill as senators returned to town Monday afternoon, but concerns regarding agency transparency about her record remained.

Haspel met with a number of key members of the Senate Intelligence Committee Monday, including Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich.

Judicial, CIA Nominations Highlight May Congressional Agenda
House and Senate committees working on appropriations and defense policy bills

As Congress returns this week for a work period that stretches to Memorial Day, the legislative agenda on the floors faces long odds of enactment even as broader issues surrounding the president’s judicial and executive nominees, as well as the annual Pentagon policy bill, compete for attention. 

Senators arrive in Washington on Monday evening for a three-week run highlighted by yet another batch of federal appeals court nominations.

Ahead of NRA Speech, Cruz Bashes Big Banks Over Restrictions on Guns
Texas Republican expected to speak after Pence, Trump

Ahead of his own speech to the National Rifle Association Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz was focused on a pair of big banks that are imposing restrictions on firearm sales conducted by their business partners.

“Under this new policy, we will require new retail sector clients or partners to adhere to these best practices: (1) they don’t sell firearms to someone who hasn’t passed a background check, (2) they restrict the sale of firearms for individuals under 21 years of age, and (3) they don’t sell bump stocks or high-capacity magazines,” Citi said in its March announcement of the gun policy changes. “This policy will apply across the firm, including to small business, commercial and institutional clients, as well as credit card partners, whether co-brand or private label.”