Clapper: Trump’s Pick for CIA Director ‘Is a Tremendous Intelligence Officer’

‘I think the world of Gina,’ Clapper said about Haspel.

March 13, 2018

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Tuesday expressed is support for President Donald Trump’s pick to replace Mike Pompeo as CIA director.

Clapper did not hesitate to praise the "tremendous" Gina Haspel, whom Trump tapped to replace the outgoing Pompeo as he gets ready to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Haspel has served as Pompeo’s deputy director at the CIA, and Clapper said he supports her because of his experience with her.

"I think the world of Gina," Clapper said. "I think she is a tremendous intelligence officer. I've worked with her on occasion when she served overseas. She had a second hat as the DNI representative and she was great, so I think she will be good for the agency."

He added that Haspel will be able to work effectively with the current director of national intelligence, Dan Coats.

"She’s very highly respected there and I think would be good for the intelligence community because I think she'll work well with Dan Coats and Sue Gordon, his deputy," Clapper said.

Haspel has taken heat for her oversight of interrogation that included waterboarding during the George W. Bush administration, and host Jake Tapper asked Clapper if that was a concern. Clapper granted that it was, but he said he still expects her to be confirmed despite some opposition.

"It is a concern," Clapper said. "She'll have to deal with [that] and I think she can in the confirmation process because there will be questions raised about it and there will be opponents. I think she'll get confirmed but certainly not unanimously."

Former Obama administration CIA Director John Brennan also offered support for Haspel, albeit in more qualified terms.

"Gina Haspel has a lot of integrity," Brennan said. "She has tried to carry out her duties at the CIA to the best of her ability, even when the CIA was asked to do some very difficult things in very challenging times."

Clapper also said Haspel’s old boss may be a better fit at State for the Trump administration than Tillerson.

"[Pompeo] is going to be in a better position to be activist as secretary of state than he was as director of the CIA," Clapper. "I do wonder, though, about whether he will continue to preside over the, essentially the dismantlement of the State Department. It doesn't strike me that he's going to preside over a funeral, which is what we've got going on right now in the State Department. Hopefully, he’ll reverse that."