White House Prepares for a ‘Close Vote’ on CIA Nominee Gina Haspel

The White House is gearing up for what it expects will be a difficult fight to confirm its nominee to run the Central Intelligence Agency, it indicated Wednesday. Marc Short, the White House legislative affairs director, told reporters on a conference call that he hoped the senators whom Gina Haspel will face next Wednesday will look at “the merits of her candidacy,” but “it’ll still be a close vote.” That was the first White House acknowledgement of the difficulties Haspel faces, owing to her involvement in the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. Haspel ran a secret black-site prison in late 2002 where Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri was waterboarded, but most of her subsequent involvement remains shrouded in official secrecy. A former CIA lawyer’s 2014 memoir, as the Daily Beast recently reported, asserted that Haspel had “run the interrogation program,” but the ex-attorney abruptly recanted that position the day after the story published. On the call, Short offered no additional information about her specific role in the program. Short did say that Haspel was making extensive outreach to senators and was “preparing aggressively” for her hearing. He also indicated President Donald Trump himself would lobby senators, as Trump has done in the past, and he is “certainly willing to do that for Gina Haspel,” which would represent Trump’s first personal intervention in her confirmation battle.

—Spencer Ackerman