White House preps 27-page talking point defense for controversial CIA nominee
The five talking points emphasize the CIA veteran’s experience and “common-sense” leadership and note that she would be the first woman to lead the intelligence agency.
It also preps defenders to counter attacks on Haspel for her involvement in the agency’s use of harsh interrogations techniques, now widely considered torture, in the post-9/11 era.
The final talking point doesn’t mention that controversy directly but says that if the White House is “pressed on a specific matter,” defenders of Haspel should respond with the following: “She is an ‘intelligence and national security expert’ who follows the law as written, and has demonstrated strong and clear leadership in very challenging positions.”
According to one GOP source familiar with the confirmation process, the White House also plans to emphasize that Haspel worked well with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo while he served as CIA director and that she also has a good working relationship with President Trump.
The source also says the Trump administration will highlight how she is already serving as acting director of the CIA, so she is already doing the job and the transition would be easy.
The talking points are intended to counter the narrative from Democratic critics of Haspel who argue her past work should disqualify her from leading the CIA.
“Her role, whatever it was and whatever you think of torture, her role in it is not as deep or not as horrific as Democrats are describing it,” the GOP source said.
The document’s first point stresses that Haspel has “impeccable professional experience” having served more than 30 years “at the highest levels of the CIA.” It then emphasizes that she is a leader with “an exceptionally strong work ethic and common sense.”
The third point says Haspel “has outstanding professional expertise in national security and intelligence,” pointing to awards she received for her work in intelligence and counterterrorism.
The fourth talking point says “Haspel is an intelligence expert who should be easily confirmed,” with bullet points noting her time serving under Pompeo and her “strong working relationship with White House senior staff and other officials.”
The document additionally lists top intelligence community officials who have publicly vouched for her. These national security leaders served across Democratic and Republican administrations, including former CIA directors Leon Panetta and John Brennan, who both served in the Obama administration, and Michael Hayden, who served as CIA director during the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.
The document includes a handful of op-eds praising Haspel and making the case for her to be confirmed.
Haspel is scheduled to go before the Senate Intelligence Committee for a confirmation hearing on Wednesday.
In addition to opposition from Democrats such as Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Republicans like Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Rand Paul (Ky.) have raised concerns about her torture record.
“I know the Senate will do its job in examining Ms. Haspel’s record as well as her beliefs about torture and her approach to current law,” McCain said in a statement.
Paul has voiced opposition to Haspel, particularly her record on torture and her involvement with the CIA’s “black sites.”