Home/Daniel Larison/The Senate Must Reject Haspel

The Senate Must Reject Haspel

Credit: CIA

Trump’s nominee for CIA Director, Gina Haspel, tried to withdraw her nomination late last week, but was apparently talked out of it by a desperate White House:

Gina Haspel, President Trump’s nominee to become the next CIA director, sought to withdraw her nomination Friday after some White House officials worried that 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 avoided the spectacle of a brutal confirmation hearing on Wednesday 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 on her history in the CIA’s controversial interrogation program — which employed techniques such as waterboarding that are widely seen as torture — and signaled that she was going to withdraw her nomination. She then returned to CIA headquarters, the officials said.

Taken aback at her stance, senior White House aides, including legislative affairs head Marc Short and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, rushed to Langley, Va., to meet with Haspel at her office late Friday afternoon. Discussions stretched several hours, officials said, and the White House was not entirely sure she would stick with her nomination until Saturday afternoon, according to the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Haspel’s inclination to withdraw is a sign that the pressure on the Trump administration over her past involvement in torture is having the desired effect. That pressure should continue, and with any luck it will cause her nomination to be defeated. The Trump White House would have been wise to let Haspel withdraw. The latest news will only encourage opponents of her nomination to do everything possible to keep a torturer from being rewarded with the top position at the CIA.

There should be much more serious consequences for lawbreakers and torturers than denial of a promotion, but the complete failure of the last administration to hold Bush-era torturers accountable ensured that this will never happen. If Trump is foolish enough to stand by his awful choice for CIA Director, the Senate must refuse to confirm her.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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