Trump Defends 'Tough on Terror' CIA Nominee Days Before Confirmation Hearing

| MAY 7, 2018 | 2:25 PM

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President Donald Trump took to Twitter to make a case for his controversial CIA director nominee Gina Haspel just two days before her highly anticipated confirmation hearing before Congress.

“My highly respected nominee for CIA Director, Gina Haspel, has come under fire because she was too tough on Terrorists. 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. Win Gina!” Trump wrote on Twitter Monday morning.

Haspel's critics voiced concerns about her involvement in a CIA detention facility in Thailand in 2002. There, two detainees were waterboarded, with one of the instances occurring after Haspel took the helm of the prison. 

Jameel Jaffer, former deputy legal director of the ACLU, pushed back on Trump's tweet, writing: “Trump is backing Haspel *because she approved torture*. Absolutely grotesque.”

California Rep. Ted Lieu echoed Jaffer's displeasure with the president's pick, tweeting Monday morning: “Are you afraid to use the word ”torture“ in your misleading tweet? That's the issue with Gina Haspel, that she promoted or was complicit in torture.”

Widespread pushback led several White House advisors to wonder if criticisms of her past interrogation techniques would stop all chances of Senate confirmation, the Washington Post reported.

And that skepticism led Haspel to offer to withdraw her nomination last Friday, officials familiar with Haspel's conversations told the Post. The department nominee cited potential damages to her and the CIA's reputation, as well as a possibly brutal confirmation process, as reason enough to step aside. 

Several senior White House officials — including legislative director Marc Short and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders — traveled to CIA headquarters to dissuade Haspel of withdrawing. Conversations stretched out over several hours, one source told the Post, and Haspel decided Saturday to see the process through.

Haspel, who served at the CIA for 33-years, continues to receive support from her own department as well as the West Wing.

“When the American people finally have a chance to see the true Gina Haspel on Wednesday, they will understand why she is so admired and why she is and will be a great leader for this agency,” CIA spokesperson Ryan Trapani said to the Post. 

Sanders added that Haspel is a “patriot” and a qualified candidate for the role.