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CIA's Gina Haspel, who quietly resisted some Trump moves, outlasted many in administration

Jenna McLaughlin
·National Security and Investigations Reporter
·3 min read
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WASHINGTON — CIA Director Gina Haspel announced her retirement from the agency Tuesday afternoon on the eve of Joe Biden’s inauguration, marking the end of a tenure that was often publicly quiet, but often included behind-the-scenes resistance to some of President Trump’s controversial moves.

“It has been the greatest honor of my life to lead this remarkable organization,” Haspel said in a statement from the CIA Twitter account. “I depart deeply proud of the work we have done together — the triumphs we have achieved, the threats we have overcome, and the investments we have made for the future.”

Gina Haspel
CIA Director Gina Haspel. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Haspel, the first woman to serve as CIA director, came out from the shadows of a life undercover as an operations officer to serve as deputy director under Mike Pompeo in February 2017. She was elevated to the role of director in 2018 when Pompeo began his service as secretary of state.

In recent months, her relationship with the president had soured, and Haspel told associates she had been preparing for months for the possibility she’d be fired, according to sources. She managed to avoid that fate, however.

While Trump has been in conflict with the intelligence community from the early days of his administration, labeling them the “deep state,” Haspel proved adept at tailoring her briefings to the president, remaining out of the limelight and retaining a close relationship with Pompeo, one of Trump’s closest aides.

She has also not publicly contradicted Trump or embarrassed him. Some former CIA officials have expressed frustration that she did not publicly or privately support them more vocally against the president’s attacks. But Haspel has reportedly pushed back against various attempts by Trump and his allies, including Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, to declassify a broad swath of sensitive intelligence relating to the 2016 election and the CIA’s assessment of Russian interference and support for then candidate Trump.

Former CIA officials previously expressed concerns that declassifying more sensitive documents could have endangered the agency’s sources and technical methods of collecting information from Russia.

Haspel also reportedly resisted Trump’s last-minute attempts to install Kash Patel, a former aide to Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, a Trump ally, as CIA deputy director.

Donald Trump
Trump arriving in Texas last week. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Haspel’s resignation, like those of other senior administration officials, was widely expected. Biden has made it clear he wants to hit the ground running with his own team in national security, announcing his intent to nominate Ambassador William Burns, a career diplomat, as his pick for CIA director.

Formerly involved in overseeing one of the CIA’s divisive “black sites” in Thailand, Haspel was also the subject of many critics’ frustrations over the agency’s lack of accountability for its role in harsh post-9/11 counterterrorism programs.

During her time as director, Haspel was credited with keeping the CIA workforce largely insulated while also keeping a low profile personally, speaking publicly on only a few occasions during her entire tenure. She gave no known press interviews.

Her reluctance to speak publicly extended to Congress as well. Intelligence officials halted the annual threats briefing for members of Congress after Trump fired Dan Coats, then the director of national intelligence, for contradicting the president.

Biden’s pick for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, testified Tuesday that she would return to Congress for the annual worldwide threats hearing, and committed to gaining the public’s trust through increased transparency, an effort she’ll need the CIA’s help in accomplishing.

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