WASHINGTON – Calling her appointment an "historic milestone," President Trump announced his plan to nominate Gina Haspel as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
"She's an outstanding person who also I have gotten to know very well," Mr. Trump said of his nominee. "I've gotten to know a lot of people very well over the last year, and I'm really at a point where we're getting very close to having the cabinet and other things that I want."
Haspel is a thirty year CIA veteran whose tenure with the agency dates back to 1985.
Most of her career work has been undercover, but she has served directly with President Trump in her current capacity as the deputy director of the CIA for more than a year. According to her biography on the CIA website, her duties include managing intelligence collection, analysis, covert action, counterintelligence, and liaison relationships with foreign services.
Haspel's nomination triggered varying reaction within Washington, from strong support to serious skepticism.
"I know Gina personally and she has the right skill set, experience, and judgment to lead one of our nation's most critical agencies," said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "I'm proud of her work, and know that my committee will continue its positive relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency under her leadership."
Democrats, like Sen. Ron Wyden - the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, oppose her nomination because of Haspel's reported links to torture.
According to a New York Times article in February 2017, she had a leading role in overseeing the torture of terrorism suspects and ordered the destruction of videotapes that documented the interrogation session.
"Ms. Haspel's background makes her unsuitable to serve as CIA director," Wyden told USA Today. "If Ms. Haspel seeks to serve at the highest levels of U.S. intelligence, the government can no longer cover up disturbing facts from her past."
Still, Haspel reportedly maintains a great deal of respect within the CIA, where she received numerous awards including the George H.W. Bush Award for excellence in counterterrorism and the Presidential Rank Award which honors "high performing senior career employees for sustained extraordinary accomplishment."
Haspel must receive Senate confirmation before she can become the CIA director. Pompeo, her predecessor and outgoing boss, received 66 votes in favor and 32 votes against.
Her vote will likely be narrower. However, Republicans control the Senate, and a simple majority is required for her to become the nation's first woman to lead the agency.
"I look forward to supporting her nomination, ensuring its consideration without delay," Sen. Burr said.