Gina Haspel, President Trump’s nominee to become #the next CIA director, sought to withdraw her nomination Friday after some #White House officials worried that her role in the interrogation of terrorist suspects could prevent her confirmation by the Senate, according to four senior U.S. officials.
Haspel told the White House she was interested in stepping aside if it avoided the spectacle of a brutal confirmation hearing on Wednesday and potential damage to the CIA’s reputation and her own, the officials said. She was summoned to the White House on Friday for a meeting on her history in the CIA’s controversial interrogation program — which employed techniques such as waterboarding that are widely seen as torture — and signaled that she was going to withdraw her nomination. She then returned to CIA headquarters, the officials said.
Taken aback at her stance, senior White House aides, including legislative affairs head Marc Short and press secretary Sarah #Huckabee Sanders, rushed to Langley, Va., to meet with Haspel at her office late Friday afternoon. Discussions stretched several hours, officials said, and the White House was not entirely sure she would stick with her nomination until Saturday afternoon, according to the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Trump learned of the drama Friday, calling officials from his trip to Dallas. He decided to push for Haspel to remain as the nominee after initially signaling he would support whatever decision was taken, administration officials said.
Haspel, who serves as the CIA’s deputy director and has spent 33 years in the agency, most of it undercover, faces some opposition in Congress because of her connection to the interrogation program, which was set up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
In late 2002, Haspel oversaw a secret CIA detention facility in Thailand, where one al-Qaeda suspect was waterboarded. Another detainee also was waterboarded before Haspel’s arrival.
Three years later, Haspel was involved in the CIA’s destruction of nearly 100 videotapes that recorded the men’s interrogations, touching off an investigation by a special prosecutor who ultimately decided not to bring charges against those involved.