Another week, another Trump staffer under the bus.
Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson became the latest casualty– fired last night for daring to have a “different mindset” to the President.
“We disagreed on things,” said Trump, who simultaneously announced that CIA director Mike Pompeo would be taking over Tillerson’s role.
With this new chain of events however, comes an historic first: Gina Haspel will become the first woman ever appointed to the role of CIA director.
A veteran of 30 years with the Intelligence Agency, Haspel has spent much of that time working undercover. Throughout her tenure she’s received several awards, including the George H. W. Bush Award for excellence in counterterrorism and the Presidential Rank Award, the highest award in the federal civil service.
Despite this, Haspel is deemed a controversial choice for such a promotion. In 2017, The New York Times reported that Haspel oversaw the torture of two terrorism suspects at a secret prison in Thailand in 2002 and was subsequently involved in the destruction of videotapes documenting that torture.
Senators from both major parties raised questions about Haspel’s nomination, and the appointment still needs to pass through the Senate.
Highly regarded Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, was particularly vocal about the President’s appointment, urging his colleagues to press Haspel about her involvement in torture charges. McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner-of-war while serving in Vietnam, referred to the period (and the acceptance of such a punishment) “one of the darkest chapters in American history”.
“Ms. Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process,” McCain released in a statement. “I know the Senate will do its job in examining Ms. Haspel’s record as well as her beliefs about torture and her approach to current law.”
But Haspel also has the backing of high profile supporters on the Hill.
Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina said that he was “proud” of Haspel’s work and would be “supporting her nomination, ensuring its consideration without delay.”
“I know Gina personally and she has the right skill set, experience, and judgment to lead one of our nation’s most critical agencies,” he said in a statement.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who objected to a former promotion of Haspel in 2013, said she would reserve judgement on the nomination until after confirmation hearings. A California Democrat and member of the intelligence committee, Feinstein said she’d had personal conversations with Haspel about her involvement in the interrogations.
“Everything I know is she’s been a good deputy director of the CIA,” Feinstein, told reporters. “I think hopefully the entire organisation learned something from the so-called enhanced interrogation program…I think it is something that can’t be forgotten and I certainly can never forget it and I won’t let any director forget it.”
Sen Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, backed Feinstein’s sentiment.
“I’d prefer to wait until we have a confirmation hearing before making a decision on her nomination,” she said. “She certainly has the expertise and the experience as a 30 year employee, but I’m sure that there will be some questions.”
Trump told reporters he had worked closely with Haspel and considered her “an outstanding person.”