CIA Director Gina Haspel took a slight jab at congressional Democrats for making her confirmation overly political after she was sworn in as the first female head of the agency on Monday.
During his remarks at the swearing-in ceremony at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, President Donald Trump commended Haspel for being willing to step forward and endure the rigors of the Senate confirmation process in a highly charged political environment.
“It took courage for her to say yes in the face of a lot of very negative politics and what was supposed to be a negative vote, but I’ll tell you, when you testified before the committee, it was over,” said Trump. “There was not much they could say.”
“You live the CIA, you breathe the CIA, and now you will lead the CIA,” he stated.
Though Haspel’s appointment was endorsed by recent CIA directors from both parties — including Leon Panetta, John Brennan, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden — all but six Senate Democrats voted against her confirmation.
The final vote last week was 54 in favor and 45 against. Most cited her involvement in the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program following the Sept. 11 attacks.
Republican Sen. John McCain came out strongly against Haspel’s confirmation for this reason, though in 2013 he voted to confirm Brennan, who was the fourth-highest-ranking official at the CIA when the program was implemented, while Haspel was in a mid-level position. All but two Senate Democrats voted for Brennan.
McCain, who was undergoing cancer treatment in Arizona, was not on hand to participate in the Haspel vote, but fellow Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake voted against the confirmation, as did GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. All other Republican senators vote to confirm.
After being sworn in, Haspel offered a nod to the overly political nature of her confirmation.
“It has been nearly 50 years since an operations officer rose up through the ranks to be the director, and after the experience of the last two months I think I know why that is,” she said, drawing laughter from the very enthusiastic audience on hand.
Haspel thanked Trump for the confidence he has placed in her and for taking time to come to Langley for her swearing in.
“CIA has been more than a career,” she stated. “It has been, for me — like many of you — a calling.”
“In this building and around the world today, there are officers carrying out a vital mission, sometimes at great personal risk,” Haspel continued. “I want each of you to know that I took on the position of director because I want to represent you, as well as lead you.”
In his speech, Trump highlighted Haspel’s distinction of being the first woman to lead the agency in its over 70-year history.
Trump: "Today we also mark another proud milestone as Gina [Haspel] becomes the first woman ever to lead the CIA." pic.twitter.com/3aND9o5u7n
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) May 21, 2018
“And today we also mark another proud milestone, as Gina becomes the first woman ever to lead the CIA,” the president said. “That’s big.”
Haspel acknowledged the honor.
“I would be remiss if I did not also note the tremendous pride I take in being the first woman to serve as director,” she said.
Haspel continued, “I would not be standing before you today if not for the remarkable courage and dedication displayed by generations of [Office of Strategic Services] and agency women in roles both large and small, who challenged stereotypes, broke down barriers and opened doors for the rest of us.”
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