President Trump offered full-throated support Monday for Gina Haspel, his nominee to become CIA director, dismissing concerns about her role in interrogations of terrorist suspects that prompted her offer to withdraw last week.
“My highly respected nominee for CIA Director, Gina Haspel, has come under fire because she was too tough on Terrorists,” the president wrote on Twitter. “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!”
Hapsel’s confirmation hearing is scheduled on Wednesday with the Senate Intelligence Committee.
On Friday, Haspel sought to drop her nomination after some White House officials worried 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 would avoid the spectacle of a brutal confirmation hearing 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 over her history with the CIA’s controversial interrogation program — which employed techniques such as waterboarding that are widely seen as torture — and signaled she was going to withdraw her nomination.
By Saturday, however, she decided to stay the course and testify this week.
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.
During a television interview Monday morning, Marc Short, the White House legislative director, said he is confident Haspel will be confirmed.
“The White House is fully behind her,” Short said on MSNBC. “We think she’s the best nominee. We’re glad she’s moving forward.”
Haspel is scheduled to meet with several senators Monday in advance of her hearing.
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 that 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 interrogations, touching off an investigation by a special prosecutor who ultimately decided not to bring charges against those involved.
Carol D. Leonnig, Shane Harris and Josh Dawsey in Washington contributed to this report.