It seems that President Donald Trump is still supportive of his controversial choice to lead the CIA, even if the nominee herself has expressed doubts about doing so.
Trump on Monday morning expressed his willingness to push his nominee, current Acting Director of the CIA Gina Haspel, forward toward a Senate vote. Haspel has a controversial history of supporting and using torture methods in the past (during the administration of President George W. Bush) in order to extract information from terrorists.
As a result of the difficulty her nomination has faced, including from Democrats and Republicans who are wary of her sordid past, Haspel reportedly offered to withdraw her nomination to lead the nation’s top spy agency. Later, she decided to stick it out after meeting with White House officials and engaging in a phone call with the president himself about the subject.
Trump on Monday made it clear he was moving forward with his initial choice, seemingly defending Haspel's use of torture techniques.
Haspel “has come under fire because she was too tough on Terrorists,” Trump wrote. “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.”
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 7, 2018
It’s not difficult to understand why Trump would support a nominee with a troubled past on human rights abuses. As a candidate, Trump supported attacking the families of terrorists. He has kept up that support until this year. Trump doesn’t care about following the rules, so there’s nothing surprising about him picking a nominee who doesn't either.
But it isn’t just Democrats who are concerned with Haspel’s nomination. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) has also expressed his distaste for the nominee, signaling that she had not yet won him over.
It’s difficult to think that Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) would support Haspel either, given his historical opposition to “enhanced interrogation techniques” (as he was the victim of torture himself during the Vietnam War). Republican Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) are also potential “no” votes for Haspel, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
There is bipartisan concern over whether Haspel will adhere to the rule of law or not. If Haspel is confirmed, and if Trump gives her a directive to re-start the torture program, we cannot be certain she would push back against doing so, especially given her past involvement in using the illegal techniques.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters