President Donald Trump’s pick to become the director of the CIA, Gina Haspel, said in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Wednesday she agrees with the committee’s assessment that Russia attempted to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
“In January of 2017, the [Senate Intelligence Committee] issued a joint report on the Russia involvement in the 2016 elections. Do you agree with the findings of that report?” Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine asked Haspel.
“Senator, I do,” Haspel responded.
The Senate Intelligence Committee released a report in January 2017 that detailed Russian attempts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
“We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency,” the senators on the intelligence committee wrote in January 2017.
The senators found Russia attempted to sway the election in favor of Trump, especially after it became apparent to the Kremlin that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would likely win the election.
“We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency,” the senators wrote.
Haspel, if confirmed, will replace Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as the next director of one the nation’s top intelligence agencies. She would be the first female director in the agency’s more than 70-year history.
Haspel currently serves as the deputy director of the CIA, a position she has held since Feb. 7, 2017. The deputy director has held a number of positions in the CIA during her 33 years with the agency, including: deputy director of the National Clandestine Service, deputy director of the National Clandestine Service for Foreign Intelligence and Covert Action, and chief of staff for the director of the National Clandestine Service.
Haspel reportedly decided to withdraw her nomination Friday for fear that some within the administration were concerned about her role in the interrogation programs. She told the White House she was interested in stepping down to avoid what is likely to be a fiery confirmation hearing Wednesday, one that could not only damage her credibility but that of the CIA.
White House legislative affairs director Marc Short and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders went to Haspel’s office Friday to sway her to stay the course. The administration’s lobbying appears to have worked for now.
“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,” the president tweeted Monday in defense of his nominee.
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