Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be CIA director, would not say whether or not she would agree to tell Congress if Trump asked her to pledge personal loyalty to him.
Democratic Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.) posed the question during Haspel’s confirmation hearing on Wednesday.
“If you were approached in such a way and such a demand was made of you, would you inform this committee and the Congress that you had been so approached,” he asked.
“I’ve worked very closely with this president,” Haspel said in response.
“I don’t believe that such a circumstance would ever occur,“ she continued. ”CIA has been treated with enormous respect, and our expertise is valued for what we bring to the table.”
Reed appeared dissatisfied with her answer and repeated the question, to which she responded that it was a “hypothetical” and she did not believe Trump would ask her to make that sort of demand.
“It is not a hypothetical. People have alleged that that has happened already,” Reed said, referencing former FBI Director James Comey’s allegations that President Trump demanded a declaration of loyalty from him.
Haspel did not provide a different answer.
A protester in the crowd stood and shouted that Reed “deserve[d] a direct answer” to the question before being escorted out of the hearing chamber.
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In June 2017, Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that Trump asked him for a loyalty pledge during a private dinner at the White House that January.
“I need loyalty. I expect loyalty,” Trump allegedly said at the time.
Comey said that Trump asked him during the dinner if he wanted to stay on as FBI Director and noted he felt that “meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship.”
“That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch,” Comey said.
President Trump denied the former agency director’s version of events, saying he barely knew him and would not ask such a question.
“Who would do that? Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance under oath? I hardly know the man,” the president said. “It doesn’t make sense.”