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Top Republicans signal support for CIA director amid talk of her possible ouster

Top Republicans signal support for CIA director amid talk of her possible ouster
© Greg Nash

Top Senate Republicans are signaling support for keeping Director Gina HaspelGina Cheri HaspelCIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Biden announces veteran diplomat William Burns as nominee for CIA director Meet Biden's pick to lead the US intelligence community MORE atop the CIA amid speculation that President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee MORE could fire her out of frustration about some of her decisions related to the Russia investigation.

Speculation about Haspel's future has reached a fever pitch amid concerns in Washington that the ousting of Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperCORRECTED: Overnight Defense: COVID-19 stymies effort to study sexual assault at military academies | Biden, Saudi king speak ahead of Khashoggi report Female generals' promotions held back over fears of Trump's response: report Overnight Defense: Army details new hair and grooming standards | DC National Guard chief says Pentagon restricted his authority before riot | Colorado calls on Biden not to move Space Command MORE could foretell a larger post-election shakeup.

But top GOP senators are signaling that they don't think there's a reason for Trump to fire Haspel, outside of his own personal preference.

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"Not that I'm aware of, other than you know the president would want somebody else. ... If I'm asked my opinion, I think she's done a great job," said Senate Intelligence Committee acting Chairman Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDeSantis's rising GOP profile fuels 2024 talk GOP senators question Amazon on removal of book about 'transgender moment' CPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be MORE (R-Fla.) when asked if he thought there was a reason to fire her.

Rubio, who caveated that the decision was ultimately up to Trump, added that "she's done a very good job" and that it would be good for the "stability of the agency" for her to remain.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate coronavirus bill delayed until Thursday Democrats cut deals to bolster support for relief bill Bottom line MORE (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and an adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGarland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks DOJ declined to take up Chao ethics probe Trump was unhinged and unchanged at CPAC MORE (R-Ky.), indicated that he did not think Haspel should be fired.

"I believe both of them are good public servants and done a good job for the country," Cornyn said when asked if Haspel and FBI Director Christopher Wray should stay in place.

Haspel met with the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday afternoon. The panel is briefed regularly in the Capitol by the intelligence community, though not usually by agency directors like Haspel.

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Haspel also met with McConnell on Tuesday afternoon, in what was viewed by some as a signal from the tight-lipped GOP leader that he supports keeping Haspel as CIA director.

McConnell regularly receives intelligence briefings due to his membership to the so-called Gang of Eight, which includes congressional leaders and the top members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, but his meeting with Haspel on Tuesday was in his own capacity.

McConnell has praised Haspel, who is also from Kentucky, throughout her tenure. During her confirmation process he said that she had shown the "poise, talent and experience that make her an excellent selection." He also introduced her when she spoke in 2018 at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville.

The meetings come amid questions about Haspel's future in the administration. Haspel, a career officer at the CIA, was confirmed by the Senate in 2018, with the president lavishing praise on her at the time.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenate panel splits along party lines on Becerra House Democrats' ambitious agenda set to run into Senate blockade A Biden stumble on China? MORE (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday that he was worried about the potential that Trump could fire Haspel or Wray.

"Yes, I worry about the people who have shown some degree of integrity being removed. I definitely worry about that because that's what Trump does and he's getting more and more desperate as he realizes the election results," Schumer told reporters.

Axios reported late last month that Haspel was on the chopping block due to a lack of support amid Trump's inner circle and resistance to declassifying documents. Reuters reported that Haspel opposed Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeFormer Trump officials eye bids for political office Grenell congratulates Buttigieg on becoming second openly gay Cabinet member Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official MORE's decision to send a document that included unverified Russian intelligence to GOP lawmakers, a move by Ratcliffe that was widely panned as driven by the election.

The CIA declined to weigh in on the rumors at the time that Haspel could be fired, or leave the agency, saying that they would "leave the election season speculation to others" in an emailed statement."

Haspel declined to answer questions from reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday about the possibility that Trump could fire her.