On Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted: "Gina Haspel, my highly respected nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, is being praised for the fact that she has been, and always will be, TOUGH ON TERROR!" He added that "in these very unsafe times, we have the most qualified person, a woman, who Democrats want OUT because she is too tough on terror".
The White House has rallied behind Haspel for the position, even though questions over her past in the CIA are likely to come up at Wednesday's confirmation hearing with the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Robert Ford, a former USA ambassador to Syria, said confirming Haspel could undercut US efforts to promote human rights because she'll always be identified with the enhanced interrogation program. She considered withdrawing her nomination over the controversy, according to The Washington Post. No committee Republican has publicly expressed opposition to her, although Senator Susan Collins said she had a good meeting with Haspel but would decide whether to support her nomination after the hearing. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
It wasn't until Saturday afternoon that officials were sure she'd stick with her nomination, the Post reported.
The CIA responded by saying it had sent more classified documents to the Senate covering her "actual and outstanding record", beginning with her work for the agency's Counter-Terrorism Center after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Rand Paul of Kentucky are expected to vote for Haspel, but she would need at least one Democrat to be confirmed.More news: Speaker Paul Ryan gives US House chaplain his job back
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Administration officials are focusing on Democrats from states where Trump has strong support.
"Acting Director Haspel is a highly qualified nominee who has dedicated over three decades of service to her country", he said in a statement provided to CBS News. But Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the Intelligence panel's top Democrat, sent a letter to Haspel Monday saying the level of disclosure so far is "unacceptable". "I find it just incredible that anyone would consider having this woman at the head of the CIA", Paul said in March.
Al Jazeera's Heidi Zhou-Castro reports from Washington. After getting a visit from White House legislative affairs director Marc Short and press secretary Sarah Sanders, she opted to stay put. The uncertainty surrounding her fate is an unwelcome development for an administration recovering from the botched nomination of Ronny Jackson to become the secretary of Veterans Affairs, a failure that highlighted the White House's struggle to coordinate with Capitol Hill and professionalize its nominations process. Senate Democrats have charged that they were "disturbed" by the classified information they were reading about Haspel.
"The decision to destroy the tapes by Rodriguez and the creation of that cable by Gina Haspel and her advocacy of the destruction of the tapes" led to the eventual 7,000-page report, Jones said on a call with reporters last week.