Former CIA Director John Brennan recommended Gina Haspel to take over the position after President Donald Trump announced her nomination on Tuesday.
Haspel was tapped to replace Mike Pompeo, who in turn was nominated by Trump to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Haspel has worked for the CIA since 1985, and if confirmed, she will be the first female CIA Director.
MSNBC host Hallie Jackson declared Brennan “demoted her” when he took over the agency in 2013 in her run-up to asking about his experience with her, but Brennan replied he hadn’t.
“First of all, I never demoted her,” Brennan said. “She was the acting director for operations when I arrived, and she has a wealth of experience and background, and she has more than three decades experience abroad as well as at headquarters.”
Brennan said she enjoyed “tremendous respect” from the agency’s ranks.
“Gina Haspel has a lot of integrity,” Brennan said. “She has tried to carry out her duties at the CIA to the best of her ability, even when the CIA was asked to do some very difficult things in very challenging times.”
Asked about her reported background in the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” methods during the George W. Bush administration, Brennan said he had his disagreements with that policy but defended her actions.
“She has tried to carry out her responsibilities to the best of her ability, and consistent with what the CIA’s legal authorities were,” Brennan said. “Don’t forget that detention interrogation program was authorized by the President of the United States and deemed lawful by the Department of Justice.”
“Gina, again, is a very competent professional who I think deserves the chance to take the helm at the CIA,” he added.
He went on to say he vouched for her capabilities and expertise, expressing hope she would speak “truth to power” in an administration he said put a high value on loyalty.
“I do think there’s going to be close scrutiny given to her nomination, and I think that’s appropriate, but I do think at the end of the day she will be confirmed and should be confirmed,” he said.