CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel is "incredibly qualified" to lead the agency and "has the respect of both Republicans and Democrats," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday.
"We're highly confident and certainly very excited about the nomination of deputy director Gina Haspel to take over at the CIA," Sanders said at the daily briefing with reporters.
"She is an incredibly qualified, someone who has been in the CIA over 30 years, who has the respect of both Republicans and Democrats."
Sanders noted that California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein had endorsed Haspel — the senator has come under fire for describing her this week as "a good deputy director" — along with "people who have worked with her and people who have a good understanding of the type of person she is."
She noted that two top Obama administration officials, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, "have praised her work and support her in this process."
Feinstein, who is facing a tough re-election challenge in her bid for a sixth term, has been attacked by other Democrats for her Haspel comments earlier this week, according to news reports.
"I need to have another long talk with Gina Haspel, and I will do that," Feinstein told reporters Thursday, as she sought to qualify the previous remarks.
However, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, said Friday that he still would oppose Haspel's nomination despite ProPublica retracting a story that she oversaw the waterboarding of a suspected al-Qaida terrorist at a secret base in Thailand.
Haspel assumed leadership of the CIA-run base after the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah in 2002.
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