Haspel is a career CIA officer who has spent much of her time at the agency working under cover.
Donnelly is up for re-election in a state Trump won handily in 2016. His opponent will be the state attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, who this week came through a Republican primary featuring the ex-coal boss and convicted felon Don Blankenship, whom Trump rejected as unelectable.
Haspel, currently the CIA's deputy director, would replace Mike Pompeo, who is now Secretary of State.
Sanders was pressed on CNN's "State of the Union" over his 2013 vote to confirm former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanDonnelly announces support for Trump's CIA pick Gina Haspel Senate panel invites Comey, former officials to briefing in Russian Federation probe Another battle between politics and common sense MORE, who, like Haspel, has ties to a George W. Bush-era program that used methods that are now widely considered torture.
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the committee, said Haspel has the knowledge and experience for the job, but "many people - and I include myself in that number - have questions about the message the Senate would be sending by confirming someone for this position who served as a supervisor in the counterterrorism center during the time of the rendition, detention and interrogation program". I have also reviewed her record and her testimony before Congress, ' he added.
"I believe Gina Haspel is a patriot who loves our country and has devoted her professional life to its service and defence", he said in a statement late Wednesday night. Haspel - a 33-year veteran of the agency - faces what will likely be a close confirmation vote in the full Senate. During the campaign, Trump said he would authorize waterboarding and other sorts of torture if necessary.
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Donnelly announced his decision after meeting with Haspel, he said. Mr Trump said Democrats like Donnelly say one thing, "and then they go to Washington and vote for the radical, liberal agenda". Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, told Fox News this week that he expected Haspel to be confirmed "handily".
She warned that confirming Haspel would send a message to allies that the USA approves of what happened after 9-11.
For some of us, the act of torture as an interrogation technique presents a most hard conundrum.
Other Democrats are weighing their votes.