How the White House is pushing through one of the most controversial nominees in recent history
- Republicans are pulling out all the stops in their effort to push through the confirmation of Gina Haspel as CIA director.
- Despite Democrats' skepticism of her career as it relates to Bush-era torture programs, Republicans are branding attacks on her as sexist and sympathetic to terrorists.
WASHINGTON - The White House and the Republican National Committee are pulling out all the stops to push through Gina Haspel's nomination to serve as the next director of the CIA, despite widespread opposition and skepticism about her past behavior with the agency.
Haspel's nomination has drawn extensive scrutiny because of her work at the CIA as it relates to the practice of torture and "enhanced interrogation" methods used during the George W. Bush administration. Haspel claims to have never served in a role overseeing a CIA blacksite in Thailand where officers engaged in torture practices on detainees, despite news reports to the contrary.
The murky history surrounding Haspel's career has prompted Democrats to forcefully oppose her nomination, along with Republicans averse to her more hawkish tendencies, such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
But Republicans are moving full steam ahead with Haspel's confirmation. The RNC is leaning heavily on the gender card, branding opposition to Haspel as "the Democrats' war on a highly-qualified woman."
Playing the gender card
RNC spokesman Michael Ahrens contrasted Haspel's nomination with that of former CIA Director John Brennan, who received similar criticisms for serving in a senior role during the Bush administration, but whom the Senate easily confirmed.
"So what's changed?" Ahrens emailed to reporters on Tuesday. "Is it because she's a woman, or because they're no longer able to put national security above the partisan obstruction their far-left base demands?"
The RNC followed up on the gender component of Haspel's nomination on Wednesday, describing in an email to reporters that exchanges between Democratic senators and the nominee were tantamount to "mansplaining."
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn invoked Haspel's gender during a speech Monday on the Senate floor, noting that if confirmed, she would be the first female to serve as the US's top spy.
"I think it's important for the country's young women to see someone like Ms. Haspel leading an agency as vital to our national security as the CIA," Cornyn said. "Women everywhere will be watching this week, and Democrats should show them that ambition, good character, and hard work are always welcome and rewarded in the upper echelons of the United States government."
'She was too tough on terrorists"
Another theme of the GOP's campaign has been to suggest that Haspel is facing opposition because she was too tough on terrorists, which President Donald Trump echoed on Monday.
"My highly respected nominee for CIA Director, Gina Haspel, has come under fire because she was too tough on Terrorists," Trump wrote on Twitter. "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!"
Democrats want answers on Haspel's past
In reality, Democrats and even some Republicans have opposed or remained skeptical of Haspel because of the great deal of secrecy surrounding her career. Because of her current position at the CIA, Haspel does not have to let the entirety of records on her 33 years of service be made public, despite requests from lawmakers.
"There is no greater indictment of this nomination process than the fact that you are deciding what the country gets to know about you and what it doesn't," Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat, told Haspel during her confirmation hearing on Wednesday.
During her confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Haspel put to rest suggestions that she would reengage in torture activities while heading the CIA.
"I would not allow CIA to undertake activity that was immoral, even if it was technically legal, I would not permit it," Haspel told Virginia Sen. Mark Warner. "I believe that CIA must undertake activities that are consistent with American values."
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