Report: Gina Haspel offered to withdraw nomination as next CIA director

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Gina Haspel is a career CIA official and would be the first woman to head the agency. But her involvement in operating CIA “black sites” during the Bush administration is controversial.
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Gina Haspel  sought to withdraw her nomination as the next CIA director, following ongoing questions about her role in using torture while interrogating suspected terrorists, according to a new report.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that Haspel, the deputy director of the agency, told the White House Friday she was interested in pulling her nomination if it meant a confirmation hearing that could prove damaging to both her and the CIA could be avoided.

Haspel has worked for the CIA for 33 years. During that time, Haspel reportedly was in charge of a secret prison in Thailand in 2002, where terrorism suspects were waterboarded and subjected to other “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Officials told the Post that Haspel’s statement came during a White House meeting about her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program.

After returning to CIA headquarters, White House officials, including Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and legislative affairs director Marc Short, reportedly headed to Langley, Va., to meet with Haspel about her offer. Trump was reportedly told about Haspel on Friday, and he decided to push her to stay as the nominee.

It wasn’t until Saturday afternoon that officials were sure she’d stick with her nomination, the Post reported. USA TODAY has not independently verified the Post report.

Sanders declined to comment on Haspel’s offer to withdraw, per the Post. On Saturday, Sanders stood by Haspel’s nomination.

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

Following the publishing of the Post report, Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah echoed Sanders’ praise of Haspel.

“Acting Director Haspel is a highly qualified nominee who has dedicated over three decades of service to her country,” he said in a statement provided to CBS News. “Her nomination will not be derailed by partisan critics who side with the ACLU over the CIA on how to keep the American people safe.”

The news of Haspel’s offer to withdraw comes less than two weeks after another Trump nominee, Ronny Jackson, withdrew his own nomination to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary over misconduct allegations.

In the less than two months since Haspel’s nomination to replace Mike Pompeo, now secretary of State, was announced, the deputy has faced increased scrutiny over her past. Senate Democrats have charged that they were “disturbed” by the classified information they were reading about Haspel.

But the criticism hasn’t come only from Democrats. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has called for the Senate to “do its job in scrutinizing the record & involvement of Gina Haspel in this disgraceful program,” referring to her role in the CIA’s interrogation practices.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has also said he opposes Haspel’s nomination because of her participation in the torture program. “I find it just amazing that anyone would consider having this woman at the head of the CIA,” Paul said in March.

Paul had opposed the nomination of former CIA director Pompeo, but he reversed his decision after speaking with Trump.

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More: Ad slams Sen. Rand Paul for not supporting CIA nominee Gina Haspel, a Kentucky native

More: Sen. Wyden: CIA engaging in ‘cover-up’ of director nominee Gina Haspel’s background

 

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