Trump defends torture-linked CIA nominee as just 'tough on terror' and a strong woman

  • President Donald Trump swept concerns that his CIA Director nominee, Gina Haspel, had allowed torture under her rule, under the rug by saying she was just "tough on terror."

  • The CIA used waterboarding, a practice that simulates drowning in subjects of questioning, on suspects under Haspel.

  • White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tried to frame Haspel's nomination as a woman's issue, and Trump also mentioned her gender.

President Donald Trump defended Gina Haspel, his nominee to head the CIA after its former leader, Mike Pompeo, was pulled to head the State Department, after she offered to withdraw her nomination amid concerns that she allowed the agency to torture suspects.

The Washington Post first reported that the CIA veteran of 33 years had offered to withdraw her nomination due to concerns over her involvement with the agency's interrogation program. The program included waterboarding, which simulates drowning and is often compared to torture.

Haspel met with the White House to talk about her controversial history on Friday, and said she'd drop out of the running to avoid a possibly harsh Senate confirmation hearing that could damage the CIA's image, according to the Post.

But Trump on Monday was quick to sweep the concerns over torture under the rug and brought up Haspel being female.

"My highly respected nominee for CIA Director, Gina Haspel, has come under fire because she was too tough on Terrorists. Think of that, in these very dangerous times, we have the most qualified person, a woman, who Democrats want OUT because she is too tough on terror. Win Gina!" Trump tweeted.

The CIA has reportedly used waterboarding on extrajudicial prisoners.

Trump's tweet echoes White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders' tweet over the weekend that also framed Haspel's nomination as a women's issue: "Any Democrat who claims to support women's empowerment and our national security but opposes her nomination is a total hypocrite," Sanders tweeted.

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