The Trump administration was prepared Sunday to push ahead with Gina Haspel’s planned confirmation hearing this week to lead the CIA, despite mounting questions about her tenure at the spy agency.
Haspel was being put through the paces ahead of Wednesday’s Senate hearing, administration officials said, including sitting in on preparation sessions and continuing her visits with senators this week.
“Those who know the true Gina Haspel – who worked with her, who served with her, who helped her confront terrorism, Russia and countless other threats to our nation – they almost uniformly support her,” CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani said in a statement Sunday.
He added: “When the American people finally have a chance to see the true Gina Haspel on Wednesday, they will understand why she is so admired and why she is and will be a great leader for this agency.”
Haspel, an agency veteran with numerous undercover postings, has faced bipartisan concerns over her involvement with interrogation tactics – including actions such as waterboarding that have since been banned – against detained suspected terrorists during the George W. Bush administration.
On Friday, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking internal CIA records on the agency’s push to get Haspel confirmed.
And The Washington Post reported Sunday, citing unnamed U.S. officials, that Haspel nearly withdrew her nomination after questions from White House officials about her role in the interrogation program, but she was convinced over the weekend to stick with the process.
The White House didn’t respond to requests for comment Sunday about whether Haspel considered withdrawing.
Senators were expected to begin receiving classified material covering the scope of her career. Meantime, White House officials said they were putting pressure on Senate Democrats up for reelection in swing states, including calling in to local radio shows.
“There is no one more qualified to be the first woman to lead the CIA than 30+ year CIA veteran Gina Haspel,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrote on Twitter Saturday. “Any Democrat who claims to support women’s empowerment and our national security but opposes her nomination is a total hypocrite.”