The White House is standing behind President Trump's nomination of Gina Haspel to run the CIA, saying Sunday that “partisan critics” would not torpedo the president's pick.
The administration's response came after multiple reports said Haspel offered to withdraw her nomination Friday. Fox News could not independently verify those reports.
Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, called Haspel a highly qualified nominee. “Her nomination will not be derailed by partisan critics who side with the ACLU over the CIA on how to keep the American people safe,” he said.
A senior White House official also said Sunday that Haspel will not withdraw her nomination. Meantime, a former senior intelligence official said there had been a lack of visible support from the White House until this weekend. Her confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee is set for Wednesday.
Haspel, who would be the first woman to lead the CIA, is the first career operations officer to be nominated to lead the agency in decades. She served almost entirely undercover and much of her record is classified. Many Democrats have said she should be disqualified because she was the chief of base at a covert detention site in Thailand where two terrorism suspects were subjected to waterboarding, a technique that simulates drowning.
“There has been a fascinating phenomenon over the last few weeks. 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. That is true for people who disagree about nearly everything else. There is a reason for that,” CIA spokesman Dean Boyd told Fox News on Sunday. “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.”
Also backing Haspel’s nomination recently was former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, during an appearance last week on “Fox and Friends.”
“If you were not in a position of authority on September 11th, you have no idea the pressures that we faced to try and make sure that this country wasn’t attacked again,” Rice said.
On the opposing side are groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which says she should have stood up against the interrogation practices then.
Chris Anders of the American Civil Liberties Union lamented last week: “If confirmed, Gina Haspel would be the first and only person confirmed by the Senate — we believe in its entire history — with a known operational role in using torture.”
Haspel’s vow to fight any attempt to resurrect the previous CIA program puts her in the same camp as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who has advised Trump that he doesn’t think torture is an effective interrogation tactic. But it’s at odds with Trump, who spoke in the campaign about toughening the U.S. approach to fighting extremists and vowed to authorize waterboarding and a “hell of a lot worse.”
Fox News' Jennifer Bowman, Catherine Herridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report.