Trump praises Gina Haspel, CIA director nominee, for being 'tough on terror'

Donald Trump Benjamin Netanyahu

Trump revived that debate as a presidential candidate - saying "torture works" - to convince voters he'd be tough on terrorists, according to Gregg Bloche, a professor at Georgetown University's law school who signed a letter with Physicians for Human Rights opposing Haspel's nomination.

"Gina Haspel, my highly respected nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, is being praised for the fact that she has been, and alway will be, TOUGH ON TERROR!" the president wrote on Twitter.

"This is a woman who has been a leader wherever she has gone", Trump said Tuesday in a Twitter posting.

Haspel, who is acting CIA director, had told the White House she didn't want to stay in contention if her bruising confirmation battle this week would jeopardize the agency. Her confirmation hearing comes weeks after six Democrats voted in favor of Pompeo leading the State Department, despite his support for torture and penchant for warmongering. 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. Trump was reportedly told about Haspel on Friday, and he made a decision to push her to stay as the nominee. Rand Paul of Kentucky has said he will vote against her.

Ms Haspel is "exceptionally well respected" in the agency, former CIA director John Brennan said last week.

Trump then phoned the staffers to push for Haspel to remain as nominee, the Post's sources said.

"Given that Trump chose to do that, it's critical that there be this conversation", Bloche said in an interview.

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"The reason you're seeing contingency planning isn't a lack of confidence in Gina, but because they're seeing the Democrats band together. they're anxious they're not going to have the votes, ' a former national security source told the network".

Trump has vented that his team isn't doing enough to prevent the kind of headwinds that Haspel and other Cabinet picks have faced in the Senate, according to one White House official. He said "there's a huge amount still to be learned" about Haspel's previous work, which is "a flawless test of what she might face right now".

While she has won praise from Washington insiders - including Obama Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director Michael Hayden, she will likely face questions on the Hill about her connection to sites where waterboarding took place.

Haspel briefly ran a secret CIA prison where accused terrorists Abu Zubayadah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri were waterboarded in 2002, according to former US intelligence officials.

Though Trump has expressed some private skepticism about Haspel, newly installed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other senior administration officials have convinced the President she still has a chance of surviving the confirmation process.

"She is very qualified, she has risen up the ranks", he said.

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