Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel clears Senate committee hurdle

Committee backs view that Russia interfered in 2016 election with aim of electing Trump

The Senate intelligence committee has endorsed Gina Haspel’s nomination to become the next head of the CIA, paving the way for her approval by the full US Senate.

Ms Haspel was subject to fierce questioning last week over her role in a CIA offsite torture programme in the wake of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks.

But the committee voted 10-5 to endorse Ms Haspel's nomination. Several senior Democrats said they would support Ms Haspel after she wrote a letter to senator Mark Warner, a Democrat on the intelligence committee, addressing concerns about the interrogation programme.

“With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation programme is not one the CIA should have undertaken,” she wrote in the letter, which was made public on Tuesday.


A full Senate vote on her nomination will take place this week or next, and if approved, Ms Haspel will become the first woman to lead the intelligence agency.

2016 election

Separately, the committee announced on Wednesday that it supported the view of the US intelligence community that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, with the aim of electing Donald Trump.

In an update of the findings of its investigation into Russian interference in the elections, the joint chairmen of the committee said: "The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton. "

The findings put the Senate intelligence committee at odds with the House intelligence committee which, in its final report released last month, criticised the US intelligence community and cleared Mr Trump of any collusion with the Russian government.

The Senate intelligence committee is one of several congressional committees investigating Russian interference in the US election, which are running in parallel to the special counsel investigation being led by Robert Mueller.

Trump Tower

In a separate move, the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday released thousands of pages of documents relating to its own inquiry, including testimony from several witnesses who testified before the committee.

The newly-released tranche of documents sheds new light on the contentious June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between members of the Trump campaign team and Russian individuals, which is believed to be central to the special counsel’s inquiry.

Among the information disclosed by the documents is that Donald Trump jnr repeatedly defended his decision to attend the meeting in Trump Tower under the pretext of receiving incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.

He also said that he had not told his father that he was attending the meeting in advance of the gathering, which was also attended by his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and Mr Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

But the documents also show that the Trump Organisation provided a Russian publicist who attended the meeting with a statement once the meeting became public, urging Rob Goldstone to support Mr Trump jnr's version of the events.

Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said it was important that "we remain consistent and united" about the meeting, one email shows.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent