Cornyn defends Haspel: Democrats already 'smeared' one nominee
© Greg Nash

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynO'Rourke's rise raises hopes for Texas Dems down ballot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke debate showdown Live coverage: Cruz faces O'Rourke in Texas debate showdown MORE (R-Texas) on Monday urged the Senate to confirm acting CIA Director Gina Haspel to lead the agency after Democrats "unfairly smeared" another of President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Trump believes Kushner relationship with Saudi crown prince a liability: report Christine Blasey Ford to be honored by Palo Alto City Council MORE's nominees. 

“We've seen one Trump nominee get unfairly smeared by half-truths, innuendo and hearsay. We can't let that happen again. Ms. Haspel didn't ask for this fight," Cornyn said from the Senate floor. 

Cornyn was referring to Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, Trump's failed pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Jackson withdrew his nomination amid allegations, which he denied, that he created a hostile work environment, mishandled prescription drugs and drank on the job. 

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Though Republican senators also questioned if Jackson was qualified, much of the GOP ire has been directed at Democratic Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Overnight Energy: Outdoor retailer Patagonia makes first Senate endorsements | EPA withdraws Obama uranium milling rule | NASA chief sees 'no reason' to dismiss UN climate report Trump on 'I love you' from rally crowd: 'I finally heard it from a woman' MORE (Mont.), the ranking member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee who released a list of the allegations. 
 
"I still have a hard time accepting the treatment that Dr. Jackson received before he was even allowed to defend himself," Cornyn added, saying "reckless" attacks could discourage individuals from working for the government. 
 
Cornyn's comment comes as Haspel is scheduled to publicly testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday as part of her nomination. She's also holding a blitz of one-on-one meetings with senators this week ahead of the committee hearing. 
 
She faces a rocky road to confirmation amid scrutiny about her role overseeing a CIA "black site" and the destruction of videotapes that documented the waterboarding of an al Qaeda suspect. 
 
With Republicans holding a slim 51-seat majority, and GOP Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Noisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? Lawmakers, Wall Street shrug off Trump's escalating Fed attacks MORE (Ky.) opposed to her nomination, she'll need to win over at least one Democratic senator to be confirmed. 
 
The Washington Post reported that Haspel offered to withdraw her nomination late last week and that the White House wasn't assured until Saturday that she would go through with it. 
 
Cornyn added on Monday that he was glad Haspel stuck with her nomination and didn't fold to "intimidation tactics"