Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s pick to run the Central Intelligence Agency, has a confirmation hearing before the Senate on Wednesday. But the White House is already beginning to hit the panic button over its nominee as controversy continues to swirl about her extensive connections to U.S. torture.
On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that things are so shaky that Haspel had considered backing out of the nomination process rather than face what’s likely to be an intense Senate grilling. The Trump administration response to this trouble appears to be to remind people that Haspel is a woman. Both Trump and Sarah Huckabee Sanders noted this fact in recent tweets.
Nothing quite like lauding a female torturer to own the libs!
Haspel, a 33-year veteran of the agency, oversaw a U.S. black site in Thailand in 2002 where torture was used at least once on her watch. (Before she arrived at the site, al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded there more than 80 times.) Haspel also wrote a cable ordering the destruction of incriminating tapes of CIA officials engaging in torture. (Her defenders have said she was following the orders of her boss, former National Clandestine Service Director Jose Rodriguez.)
Taking its cues from the Trump administration, Fox News also kicked into gear to shore up support to Haspel’s shaky nomination. On Monday’s Fox & Friends, hosts Steve Doocy and Ainsley Earhardt offered this defense:
Doocy: Keep in mind. Whatever she did when she was in power at that point, she was doing it as a directive and it was all within the law.
Earhard: Right, doing what she was told to do.
Again with the just following orders! Where have I heard that before?
Despite this defense, some on Capitol Hill are already beginning to look beyond Haspel in case her nomination falls through. According to a Monday report from CNN, Deputy Director of National Intelligence Susan Gordon is being floated among some Republican strategists as a potential replacement (a CIA spokesperson told CNN the agency has “no comment on this speculation”).
Despite concerns over Haspel’s prospects, nearly all of President Trump’s more egregiously unqualified Cabinet nominees—most recently, noted Islamophobe and former CIA director Mike Pompeo—have ultimately been confirmed by the Senate.