Trump backs CIA nominee Haspel: She’s ‘tough on terrorists’

Photo courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency/Wikimedia Commons

By Sara ShayanianUPI

President Donald Trump on Monday defended his appointment of Gina Haspel to be the next director of Central Intelligence, saying she has been tough on terrorists.

The president’s support came days after Haspel is said to have offered to withdraw her nomination.

“My highly respected nominee for CIA Director, Gina Haspel, has come under fire because she was too tough on Terrorists,” Trump tweeted Monday. “Think of that, in these very dangerous times, we have the most qualified person, a woman, who Democrats want OUT because she is too tough on terror.”

Haspel said she was worried about potential damage to the CIA from a tough confirmation battle, CNN reported. The concern prompted a visit from White House legislative affairs chief Marc Short and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders at the CIA’s Virginia headquarters.

“Acting Director Haspel is a highly qualified nominee who has dedicated over three decades of service to her country,” White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah said. “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.”

Trump punctuated his tweet Monday with, “Win Gina!”

“Any Democrat who claims to support women’s empowerment and our national security but opposes her nomination is a total hypocrite,” Sanders said.

Haspel, set to begin Senate confirmation Wednesday, is expected to face tough questioning over her involvement in CIA interrogations of suspected terrorists.

Haspel joined the CIA in 1985 and spent most of her career as an undercover operative.

Last month, 109 retired generals and admirals expressed “profound concern” in a letter to members of the Senate about Haspel’s nomination.

“Ms. Haspel also appears to have strongly advocated for and played a key role in carrying out an order to destroy 92 videotapes of individuals in U.S. custody being subjected to torture,” the former leaders said in their letter. “This disregard for lawful checks on the CIA’s power is troubling.”

If confirmed, Haspel would be the CIA’s first permanent female director.