The Slatest

Gina Haspel Offered to Withdraw Nomination to Lead CIA Over Torture Concerns

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director nominee Gina Haspel (C) attends Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's ceremonial swearing-in at the State Department in Washington on May 2, 2018.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director nominee Gina Haspel (C) attends Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s ceremonial swearing-in at the State Department in Washington on May 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

President Donald Trump’s nominee to become the next CIA director was so concerned about the questions around her role in the interrogation of terror suspects that she sought to withdraw her name from consideration for the job. Haspel was summoned to the White House Friday and officials raised concerns so she said she was interested in pulling her nomination if it meant a damaging confirmation hearing could be avoided, the Washington Post revealed. Haspel, who is the deputy director of the agency, said she wanted to avoid a series of events that could be damaging to both her reputation and the agency as a whole.

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The White House specifically wanted to ask her about her history in the CIA’s interrogation program that employed several techniques, including waterboarding, that are largely seen as torture. When she left the White House, the 33-year CIA veteran seemed determined to step aside. But that’s when two senior White House officials— legislative affairs head Marc Short and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders—went into overdrive to convince her to change her mind.

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Administration officials are particularly concerned about the time Haspel oversaw a secret CIA detention facility in Thailand, where suspects were waterboarded. She also played a role in the destruction of almost 100 videotapes of interrogations, which sparked an investigation by a special prosecutor. After initially suggesting he would support whatever decision she took, Trump later decided to push for her to remain the nominee.

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“There is no one more qualified to be the first woman to lead the CIA than 30+ year CIA veteran Gina Haspel,” Sanders wrote on Twitter Saturday. “Any Democrat who claims to support women’s empowerment and our national security but opposes her nomination is a total hypocrite.” Haspel’s nomination is moving forward and her confirmation hearing is set to begin Wednesday.

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