Top Republicans signal support for CIA director amid talk of her possible ouster
Top Senate Republicans are signaling support for keeping Director Gina Haspel atop the CIA amid speculation that President Trump 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 Esper 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.
“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 Rubio (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 Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and an adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (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.
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 Schumer (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 Ratcliffe’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.