WASHINGTON - Veteran CIA officer Gina Haspel was sworn in as the agency’s first female director Monday, hailing the “heroines” who had gone before her and expressing hope she and her team would be “role models.”

The 61-year-old Haspel, a Russia specialist who spent her career in the Central Intelligence Agency’s clandestine service, takes over from Mike Pompeo, whom Trump recently made his secretary of state.

Haspel was confirmed by the Senate last week in a 54-45 vote, despite the deep reservations of some lawmakers about her past involvement in the torture of terror suspects in the post-9/11 era.

“I stand on the shoulders of heroines who never sought public acclaim, but served as inspirations to the generations they came after them,” Haspel said after being sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence and introduced by President Donald Trump. “I would not be standing before you today if not for the remarkable courage and dedication displayed by generations” of women officers, she said at CIA headquarters in Virginia. to cheers

“In roles both large and small,” Haspel said they “challenged stereotypes, broke down and opened doors for the rest of us.” “I am deeply indebted to them and I am extremely proud to follow in their footsteps and to carry on their extraordinary legacy.” Haspel added: “I want the current CIA leadership team to be role models and mentors for our next generation of officers.” She joked about her bruising confirmation hearing, which dug into her work overseeing a secret “black site” prison in Thailand. It was there that Al-Qaeda suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were water-boarded, an interrogation technique subsequently condemned as torture.

“It has been nearly 50 years since an operations officer rose up through the ranks to become the director and after the experience of the last two months, I think I know why that is,” she told officers and invited guests.

In his introductory remarks, Trump largely avoided the controversies swirling around his presidency, including his allegations, just hours earlier, that former CIA director John Brennan was behind the investigation into his campaign’s dealings.

The president however angered some former CIA officers with his decision to thank “courageous” Congressman Devin Nunes.

A Trump supporter, Nunes has demanded documents about the investigation into Team Trump, but which the intelligence community says risks exposing sources.

Former intelligence officer David Priess said Trump’s comment about Nunes was “disgusting.”

“I can’t imagine this comment goes over well-but, unlike the president, IC officials are respectful enough not to make a scene,” Priess said.

 

Trump attacks ex-CIA chief over ‘hit job’ Russia probe

President Donald Trump attacked the investigation of possible collusion between his campaign and Russia as a “political hit job” on Monday, alleging the CIA and FBI were out of control in probing his team.

A day after demanding the Justice Department probe the FBI’s use of an informant in his 2016 campaign, Trump assailed former CIA chief John Brennan as having initiated the investigation into his team’s contacts with Russia.

Trump’s broadside came shortly before the swearing-in of Gina Haspel as the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency, where he introduced her as “a very special person,” uniquely qualified to lead “the most elite intelligence professionals on the planet Earth.”

Yet in a series of tweets, Trump lashed out at Haspel’s predecessor Brennan, the CIA’s head from 2013 to 2017, quoting Fox News commentator Dan Bongino as saying he had “started this entire debacle about President Trump.”

“This was a Political hit job, this was not an Intelligence Investigation,” Trump tweeted, citing Bongino. “John Brennan is panicking. He has disgraced himself, he has disgraced the Country, he has disgraced the entire Intelligence Community.”

Trump was referring to the exposure of a British-based CIA source over the weekend who reportedly befriended several Trump campaign aides in 2016 to help the nascent FBI probe into Russian election meddling.

On Friday Trump said “at least one” FBI representative was “implanted” in his campaign. On Sunday he followed up by demanding the Justice Department investigate whether the bureau infiltrated his campaign for political purposes, and whether it was done at the behest of Barack Obama’s administration.

The demand sparked fears of a direct clash with top Justice officials. But concerns eased after the department said its inspector general would examine the issue.

“If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

- Effort to undermine probe -

Trump’s tweets were the latest salvo in a mounting White House and Republican effort to weaken Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe by tarring it as politically motivated, amid concerns the investigation’s outcome could eventually fuel an effort to impeach Trump.

With polls showing the electorate is opposed to any move to impeach the president, Republicans believe the issue can play to their advantage in November congressional elections.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Sunday that Mueller, who has already issued 22 indictments, wants to finish the investigation by the beginning of September to avoid overlapping with election campaigns.

But that deadline is apparently contingent on Mueller interviewing the president, an issue still unresolved after months of talks.

The Trump offensive against the investigation mounted as The New York Times on Sunday reported previously unknown contacts in 2016 between the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., an Israeli media consultant, and a representative of Gulf princes, who were making legally questionable offers to help his presidential run.

One of the focuses of the Mueller investigation is a June 2016 meeting between Trump Jr. and other top campaign officials and a Russia lawyer who had promised them dirt on Trump’s election rival Hillary Clinton.

The president dismissed the Times’ story and repeated his charge that Mueller’s team of investigators is populated by “heavily conflicted Democrats” and people who had worked for Obama.

Meanwhile Roger Stone, a longtime Republican strategist who had an unofficial role supporting the Trump campaign, told NBC News Sunday that he is “prepared” to be charged by the investigation.

“It is not inconceivable now that Mr. Mueller and his team may seek to conjure up some extraneous crime pertaining to my business, or maybe not even pertaining to the 2016 election,” Stone said.

“It appears to be an effort to silence or punish the president’s supporters and his advocates,” he added.