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Haspel, Trump’s Choice For CIA Director, Withdraws Her Name

Taken aback at her stance, senior White House aides, including legislative affairs head Marc Short and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, rushed to meet Haspel at her office late Friday afternoon.

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Donald Trump
Trump open to meeting Kim again. (Wikimedia Commons)

Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s pick to head the CIA, has offered to withdraw her nomination after some White House officials raised concerns about her ability to get confirmed, the media reported.

Haspel told the White House she was interested in stepping aside if it avoided the spectacle of a brutal confirmation hearing on Wednesday and potential damage to the Central Intelligence Agency’s reputation and her own, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.

She was summoned to the White House on Friday for a meeting on her history in the CIA’s controversial interrogation programme – which employed techniques such as waterboarding that are widely seen as torture – and signaled that she was going to withdraw her nomination.

Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump's pick to head the CIA, has offered to withdraw her nomination after some White House officials raised concerns about her ability to get confirmed, the media reported.
CIA, USA- wikimedia commons

She then returned to CIA headquarters, informed officials told The Washington Post.

Taken aback at her stance, senior White House aides, including legislative affairs head Marc Short and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, rushed to meet Haspel at her office late Friday afternoon.

Haspel, who serves as the CIA’s deputy director and has spent 33 years in the agency, most of it undercover, faces some opposition in Congress because of her connection to the interrogation programme, which was set up after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

In 2002, Haspel oversaw a secret CIA detention facility in Thailand, where one Al Qaeda suspect was waterboarded.

Three years later, Haspel was involved in the CIA’s destruction of nearly 100 videotapes that recorded the detainees’ interrogations, launching an investigation by a special prosecutor who ultimately decided not to bring charges against those involved.

An administration official told The Washington Post that the nomination remains on track.

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“There is a hearing prep session today, courtesy calls with senators Monday and Tuesday, and classified materials will be delivered to Senate security so senators can read the real record instead of relying on gossip and unfounded smears,” the official added.

A CIA spokesperson told CNN on Sunday: “There has been a fascinating phenomenon over the last few weeks. Those who know the true Gina Haspel — who worked with her, who served with her, who helped her confront terrorism, Russia and countless other threats to our nation — they almost uniformly support her.

“When the American people finally have a chance to see the true Gina Haspel on Wednesday, they will understand why she is so admired and why she is and will be a great leader for this Agency.” (IANS)

 

Next Story

Trump’s Idea to Siphon Money for Border Wall Meets Resistance

The military construction budget, in particular, is a tempting target for the administration, but tapping into those funds is politically fraught.

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People gather to protest U.S. President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency to build a border wall, at Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York, Feb. 15, 2019. VOA

President Donald Trump’s decision last week to declare a national emergency related to the security of the Southwest border has created confusion and concern on military bases across the country, which could be facing unexpected cuts in funding for major construction projects and drug interdiction programs.

In all, the White House is planning to use authority given to the president in times of national emergencies to redirect $6.1 billion from the Pentagon’s budget to help fund more than 320 kilometers (200 miles) of the wall the president has promised to build on the southern border to stanch the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs. The money would come from the military construction budget ($3.6 billion) and a Department of Defense drug interdiction fund ($2.5 billion.)

The military construction budget, in particular, is a tempting target for the administration, but tapping into those funds is politically fraught. Unlike other money appropriated by Congress, which must be spent (or “obligated,” in budget-speak) in the year it is authorized, military construction funds can be spent over a period of five years. This means there are billions of dollars sitting in Pentagon accounts right now that haven’t been officially spent.

“To my knowledge it’s unprecedented, particularly in military construction,” said Stephen Ellis, executive vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a government watchdog. “As opposed to some other accounts, every dollar in that has a target. Every dollar that is appropriated in military construction — there is no slush fund — is actually going to build a particular project on a particular installation at a particular time. There is a victim for every dollar that is taken from that account and directed to the wall.”

 

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FILE – Construction workers check a new section of bollard wall in Santa Teresa, N.M., as seen from the Mexican side of the border in San Jeronimo, on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. VOA

Real-world effects

Redirecting that money to other purposes will have painful real-world effects on communities across the country that were expecting — even depending on — those funds being spent on contracts with local construction firms and other service providers. And all of those communities have members of Congress who carefully monitor federal spending in their districts, many of whom pride themselves on delivering such projects to their constituents.

In Kentucky, for example, more than $140 million in funding was on the books for Fiscal 2019, according to Department of Defense budget documents. That includes a $62 million project to fund a new middle school for the children of service members at Fort Campbell.

In an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Tuesday, Kentucky Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth, who chairs the House Budget Committee, criticized the president’s proposal.

“[T]hese are military families,” he said. “These are the kids of our soldiers, probably some of whom are at the border right now enforcing Donald Trump’s fallacious strategy.”

In Ohio, where construction, among other things, was expected to begin on a new intelligence production complex at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and a new machine gun range at the Army National Guard’s Camp Ravenna, federal funding is now in doubt.

Ohio Republican Congressman Mike Turner, who said in a statement that he generally supports the president’s border strategy, nevertheless added, “I strongly believe securing our border should not be done at the expense of previously funded military construction projects.”

In Texas, home to Republican Congressman Mack Thornberry, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, more than $250 million allocated for military construction projects, including infantry training grounds and medical facilities, is suddenly in question.

Thornberry also said in a statement that he generally supports the president’s goals at the border, but like many other members of Congress, he balked at taking the funds from the military. Doing so, he said, will “undercut one of the most significant accomplishments of the last two years beginning to repair and rebuild our military.”

Appropriations process

Because of rules governing the federal appropriations process, money that has been “obligated” through a federal contracting process cannot be taken back by the administration, so contracts in effect before the declaration of a national emergency will not be affected.

The confusion surrounding what impact the move would have on military facilities was only made worse by conflicting signals from the administration.

US, Emergency, Trump
President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House to declare a national emergency in order to build a wall along the southern border, Feb. 15, 2019, in Washington. VOA

In a Rose Garden appearance in which he announced his plan, Trump suggested that he had identified programs that would lose funding. He said that he had spoken to unnamed “generals” who told him they believed the border barrier to be more important than other projects to which funds had been allocated.

The president himself seemed to say that he had been made aware of programs that could be cut, adding they “didn’t sound too important to me.”

A day later, however, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told Reuters that he would be meeting with service chiefs to identify projects that would lose funding in order to accommodate the administration’s plans.

As of Tuesday morning, a staff member on the House Armed Services Committee said that Congress had still not been made aware of the programs that would be cut to make funding available for the border wall.

Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency has provoked a complex set of reactions from members of Congress.

Many Republicans, including senior figures in the Senate such as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have expressed support for the declaration, saying they agree that the situation on the border amounts to a crisis.

US, Trump, emergency
Senator Marco Rubio questions witnesses before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about “worldwide threats” on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 29, 2019. VOA

Funding method a problem

Even among Republicans who are generally sympathetic to Trump’s insistence that a wall is necessary on the Southwest border, his chosen method of funding is the problem.

The U.S. Constitution specifically grants Congress the sole ability to authorize federal spending, and for more than two years, Congress has specifically refused to provide the president with funding for a border wall. A number of Republican lawmakers are unhappy at what they see as an attempt to end-run the legislative branch.

“We have to be careful about endorsing broad uses of executive power,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said in an appearance on CNBC Tuesday. “If today, the national emergency is border security … tomorrow, the national emergency might be climate change.”

Across the aisle, Democrats have been almost uniformly dismissive of the president’s calls for a border barrier and are even more united in their opposition to his use of emergency authority to fund it.

Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas announced Tuesday that he had secured 78 co-sponsors for a proposed Joint Resolution terminating the president’s emergency declaration. If Democrats are able to pass the resolution in the House, it would force the Republican-controlled Senate to vote on the bill as well.

This would, at the very least, force many Republican senators to go on the record as supporting or opposing Trump’s actions.

emergency, US, Trump
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, addresses reporters after a ribbon-cutting at a U.S. Coast Guard regional command center, Feb. 20, 2019, in South Portland, Maine. Collins said that she would vote for a congressional resolution disapproving of President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration to build a wall on the southern border. VOA

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If it were to pass the Senate — not impossible, given the number of Republican lawmakers who have said they are opposed to the state of emergency declaration — President Trump would still have the ability to veto it. (VOA)