US President Donald Trump’s choice to be the next head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has sought to withdraw her nomination, it was reported late Sunday.
Gina Haspel told the White House on Friday that she was interested in stepping aside from the nomination if it would damage her and the agency’s reputations, according to the Washington Post.
Haspel was due to be confirmed to the role of director by the Senate on Wednesday but was called to the White House before the weekend over questions about her involvement in the CIA’s controversial interrogation program, anonymous administration sources told the Post.
The 61-year-old played a role in the alleged torture of suspected terrorist detainees as a clandestine CIA officer following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Friday’s meeting was followed by another with Haspel at CIA headquarters where she reportedly met for several hours with senior White House staff, including legislative affairs boss Marc Short and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Trump then phoned the staffers to push for Haspel to remain as nominee, the Post’s sources said. By Saturday she had reportedly agreed to continue with the nomination.
In 2002 Haspel ran a so-called CIA “black site,” or secret detention centre which allegedly tortured two suspected al-Qaeda terrorists.
Haspel became deputy director of the agency in 2017 and was named last Tuesday as the replacement for Mike Pompeo, who was made secretary of state.
Her nomination has come in for criticism even from Republicans, with Senator John McCain having said she needed to explain her involvement in one of the “darkest chapters in American history.”