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Senate Confirmation Hearing for Gina Haspel; 3 Americans Released from North Korean Prison; Trump Announces Pullout of Iran Nuclear Deal. Aired 11:30a-12n ET

Aired May 9, 2018 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00] SEN. TOM COTTON, (R), ARKANSAS: Senator Warner said that he was worried about the message we would be sending if we confirmed you to the director of the CIA. Let's look at that from the other direction. What message would we be sending if we didn't confirm you to the CIA, to the men and women of the CIA, to the GS-15s who may be asked to take on a controversial position that a future administration with new lawyers might not like?

And for that matter, what message does overwhelming Democratic opposition to your nomination send? In fact, if you had been nominated by President Obama, or if Hillary Clinton had won and nominated you to be the CIA director, how many votes do you think you would have gotten to be confirmed as the CIA director?

You don't have to answer.

(LAUGHTER)

I also have to take exception at what Senator Warner said when he called an opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel that was signed off by the attorney general of the United States as a get out of jail free card. Do you believe acting under the legal approval of the attorney general, that you or any other CIA officer should have gone to jail and you needed a get out of jail free card? You can answer that one, please.

HASPEL: Senator, CIA follows the law.

COTTON: Exactly what I thought. Let's turn to the circumstances of what the counterterrorism center was doing the day that you were there. I think Senator Collins asked a excellent sequence of questions that got at many of these points; I just want to tie a bow on some of them.

This was -- these programs, or to the best of your understanding, approved by the commander in chief, legally approved by the attorney general and supported by the director of the CIA, who I point out at the time, was the former Democratic staff director of this committee. Is that correct?

HASPEL: That's correct, senator.

COTTON: You said that you were not a senior manager when those programs were created, is that correct? HASPEL: That's correct.

COTTON: Was John Brennan a member of the senior intelligence service and the deputy executive director, at the time a senior manager in your opinion?

HASPEL: Senator, I believe Mr. Brennan was the deputy extern (ph) of the agency at that time.

COTTON: And you'd consider that a senior manager position at the CIA?

HASPEL: I believe it's a number four position.

COTTON: For John Brennan, who was confirmed to be the CIA director by the following members of this committee, Senator Warner, Senator Feinstein, Senator Heinrich, Senator Collins, Senator King, Senator Burr, Manchin, Senator Wyden, and Senator Rubio.

Let's turn to the question about the tapes that were destroyed in 2005. Did any lawyer at any time in any organization of the federal government say there was a legal prohibition to destroy those tapes?

HASPEL: Senator, they did not. They were very consistent that there was no legal requirement to preserve the tapes because of the written record.

COTTON: And it's your -- it's your testimony that there is a written record that fully documents whatever may or may not have happened?

HASPEL: Senator, yes. And there were two reviews done of the written record by the Office of General Counsel and Office of the Inspector General.

COTTON: In other words, the CIA has a record no different from the federal court system, which keeps transcripts and allows sketch drawings, but does not allow video recordings in a federal court room, is that correct?

HASPEL: That's correct, senator.

COTTON: You were the Chief Of Staff, to Mr. Rodriguez when this happened, correct?

HASPEL: Yes.

COTTON: And at his direction, you drafted a cable that he later sent.

HASPEL: That's correct.

COTTON: Michael Morell who supported Hillary Clinton in the last election cleared you of any wrongdoing in directing the cable?

HASPEL: He did.

COTTON: As did in investigation by the Office of Special Counsel and the Office of the Inspector General? HASPEL: That investigation was closed without charges for Mr. Rodriguez or anyone.

COTTON: Would hold you responsible for drafting a cable at your boss's direction make any more sense than holding a Senate speech writer responsible for the boring speeches senators give on the Senate floor?

HASPEL: Senator, I'll defer to you.

(LAUGHTER)

COTTON: I would submit that it does not. Finally, there's a lot of talk about policy guidance, and that there was some awareness by Mr. Rodriguez that higher officials in the government who were political appointees had qualms or expressed reservations. I would say that's another way for which politicians don't take responsibilities when they are placed in certain positions, whether they are elected or appointed, and give the answers they are responsible for giving yes or no and take the chips to fall where they may.

BURR: The senator's time has expired. Senator Harris.

HARRIS: Thank you. So let's just be clear, this hearing is not about the incredible importance of the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the CIA. That's not what this hearing is about. This hearing is not about the importance of the agency's mission, both of which I wholeheartedly support.

This hearing is about your suitability --

[11:35:00]

-- to be the director of the CIA. And in our responsibility to participate in choosing who will be the next director of the CIA, the mission that we have now includes understanding that who we choose will be a signal to the men and women of the agency, to the American people and to our neighbors around the world about our values as Americans on critical issues that range from our adherence to a rule of law, to what we prioritize in terms of professional accountability and what we prioritize in terms of our moral authority as Americans and as a country.

So one question I've not heard you answer is, do you believe that the previous interrogation techniques were immoral?

HASPEL: Senator, I believe that CIA officers, to whom you referred...

HARRIS: It's a yes or no answer. Do you believe the previous interrogation techniques were immoral? I'm not asking you believe they were legal. I'm asking do you believe they were immoral.

HASPEL: Senator, I believe that CIA...

HARRIS: It's yes or no.

HASPEL: ... extraordinary work to prevent another attack on this country given the legal tools that we were authorizing...

HARRIS: Please answer yes or no. Do you believe in hindsight that those techniques were immoral?

HASPEL: Senator, what I believe sitting here today is that I support the higher moral standard we have decided to hold ourselves.

HARRIS: Will you answer the question?

HASPEL: Senator, I think I've answered the question.

HARRIS: No, you've not. Do you believe the previous techniques, now armed with hindsight -- do you believe they were immoral, yes or no?

HASPEL: Senator, I believe that we should hold ourselves to the moral standard outlined in the Army Field Manual.

HARRIS: OK, so I understand that -- you've not answered the question, but I'm going to move on. So I understand that you -- from previous answers -- are serving as the authority over whether or not CIA information concerning you will be classified or not. Given an obvious appearance of conflict, will you agree to recuse yourself from the responsibility and the authority to make decisions about whether or not that information will be classified or not? Will you agree to recuse yourself of that responsibility and authority yes or no.

HASPEL: Senator, I am following the guidelines that exist at CIA and there is another declassification authority. It's called the IRO. I have not interfered...

HARRIS: Ms. Haspel, do you believe that you have the authority to recuse yourself?

HASPEL: I'll take that for the record. I -- I may have the authority to recuse myself.

HARRIS: Assuming you do.

HASPEL: ...I'm not a lawyer. I don't -- I'm not sure about that.

HARRIS: Assuming you do -- and I believe you do. Will you agree to recuse yourself from the responsibility and the authority if making decisions about what CIA -- information about you and your record will be classified or declassified?

HASPEL: Senator, if I had agreed with the proposals that have come up to -- because people thought it would be advantageous to me, I think I would've been abdicating my responsibility to follow the rules that everyone at CIA follows.

HARRIS: OK. And you also have hearing have a responsibility to ask -- answer the questions that are being asked of you. I'm going to ask you a different question. Do you -- would you agree that given this appearance of conflict or potential conflict around the classification or declassification of these documents, that -- would you agree that Director Coats instead should have the responsibility for declassification decisions regarding your background?

HASPEL: Senator, I think one important thing is that this committee plays a unique role to review the classified record and we have sent over every piece of paper we can lay our hands on about my classified record; all of my evaluations over a 33 year career. And I hope every senator is had the opportunity to look at that classified material...

HARRIS: Indeed I have.

HASPEL: But there are...

HARRIS: I have another question for you then because I only have a few minutes left -- I only have few seconds left. The president has asserted that torture works. Do you agree with that statement?

HASPEL: Senator, I -- I -- I don't believe that torture works. I believe that in the CIA's program -- and -- and I'm not attributing this to enhanced interrogation techniques -- I believe, as many people, directors who have sat in this chair before me, that valuable --

[11:40:00]

-- information was obtained from senior Al Qaeda operatives that allowed us to defend this country and prevent another attack.

HARRIS: Is that a yes?

HASPEL: No, it's not a yes. We got valuable information from the briefing of Al Qaeda detainees and I don't -- I don't think it's knowable whether interrogation techniques played a role in that.

HARRIS: Thanks (ph) for (ph) my time.

BURR: The senator's time has expired. Senator Cornyn.

CORNYN: Ms. Haspel, I note that one prominent national security expert has said that if President Obama had nominated you to be director of the CIA, it would be an easy decision to support your nomination. So it strikes me that you're being treated much differently than Director Brennan was, which Senator Cotton noted he was voted out of this committee by a vote of 12 to 3 and confirmed by a vote of 63 to 44 to be CIA director.

So it strikes me -- and this is not a question for you, this is an observation by me -- that you and this president are being held to a double standard and I think that's regrettable. I also remember that the President Obama in 2009, when he declassified the Office of Legal Counsel memos that are been referred to here, promised the men and women of the CIA that, quote, "we will protect all who acted reasonably and relied upon legal advice from the Department of Justice, that their actions were lawful. They need to be fully confident that as they defend the nation, I will defend them."

And I think this committee and this Senate should remember those words by President Obama and apply those when considering your confirmation. Senator Feinstein was kind enough about a year ago to send me a book by Peter Bergen called Manhunt.

It's a 10 year history of the search for Osama bin Laden; where as I was thumbing through it recently, I was reminded that post-9/11, President Bush was concerned about reports that he had received that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda was meeting with the Pakistani officials connected with their nuclear program to gain access to a nuclear device that they might then use for a follow-on attack against the cities like Washington D.C.

Without divulging classified information, can you confirm that there were concerns about follow-on attacks using nuclear devices, biological weapons, other weapons of mass destruction that might've killed more innocent Americans as happened on 9/11? Was there -- was that the environment in which you and the country were operating in at the time?

HASPEL: Senator, there were very grave concerns on that front. And indeed, Al Qaeda had those kinds of programs, efforts to acquire crude, dirty bombs, efforts to develop -- they had a program -- a biological weapons program. I remember the operative who was in charge of that.

There was very deep concern about potential contacts, and we continue to monitor this very closely, between extremists and Pakistani nuclear scientists.

CORNYN: So, here we sit, years following the terrible events of 9/11, feeling very safe and secure thanks to the incredible work being done by the intelligence community, including the good men and women at the CIA, as well as, the men and women who serve in the United States military. We're feeling very safe and secure and the memories of that terrible event are very distant.

But it strikes that, in addition to the double standard that I believe you and this President are being held to, compared to Secretary Brennan, compared -- I mean Director Brennan and President Obama's administration, that people have, simply, forgotten. And that's dangerous to have forgotten the circumstances under which they were operating at the time and doing their dead level best to protect the country from a follow on attack.

I just want to note in closing that, recently, I had a chance to travel to a garden spot with the Chairman and visit with some of those unnamed patriots who served...

HASPEL: Thank you for doing that.

CORNYN: ...in the CIA and I was struck by talking to one gentleman, he was talking about his girlfriend that he no longer had.

(LAUGHTER)

And I said...

HASPEL: It's a common story. CORNYN: ...I said this this must be incredibly difficult on marriages and on relationships and on families. Would you just take just a second to comment about the sacrifices that intelligence officers, rank and file employees of the CIA, make when it comes to those sorts of relationships?

HASPEL: Senator, thank you. You know, maybe I could start by saying I talked about how CIA's boots were the first on the ground in Afghanistan. We suffered the first U.S. casualty. But maybe it's important for the American people to know that CIA officers are still out there in Afghanistan. Our officers are out there fighting extremists, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

We have 125 stars on our memorial wall, now. Many of those -- it's shocking how many stars we've added. I believe we added seven starts to our wall last year. Perhaps, I could cite one personal example of an officer who worked for me.

She was the most extraordinary woman. She was our number one Al-Qaeda expert. I worked with her in the Counter Terrorism Center. She was having her third baby in those days following 9/11, but we needed her because she had such deep expertise.

She later worked for me on terrorism issues in a foreign capital. And then, she went to Afghanistan. And she and six colleagues were murdered by a suicide bomber who penetrated our base.

These are very real sacrifices. These are my friends and colleagues. All of us at CIA have a -- a commitment and an honor bound obligation to uphold the memory of those officers, mothers who've left their children, to go to the field and, sometimes, have given their all in service of this country.

BURR: I thank, Senator Cornyn. Senator Reed.

REED: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and I thank you, Ms. Haspel. You've been working with the administration, now, for 15 months. You've had the opportunity to brief the president. Have you ever been alone with the president?

HASPEL: Senator, I'm usually there with Senator Coats, a brilliant analyst who delivers the actual analytic briefing and, usually, the national security advisor, the vice president.

REED: There have been allegations -- Mr. Comey, one -- that while he was alone, the President asked for a personal pledge of loyalty. If you were ever approached by the President and asked for a personal pledge of loyalty, what would you respond?

HASPEL: Senator, my only loyalty is to the American people and the Constitution of the United States. I am honor bound and will work very hard to deliver to this president and his administration, the best performance and intelligence CIA can deliver.

REED: And if you were approached in such a way and such a demand was made of you, would you inform this committee and the Congress that you had been so approached?

HASPEL: Senator, I've worked very closely with this President. I don't, I don't believe that such circumstance would ever occur. CIA has been treated with enormous respect and our expertise is valued for what we bring to the table.

REED: If it occurred, would you inform the committee?

HASPEL: Senator, it's a hypothetical. I don't think it's going to occur. I'm very confident about that.

REED: It does not seem to by hypothetical if people have alleged that that has happened already.

HASPEL: Senator, I don't know anything about that conversation.

REED: OK. Now, Senator Harris was asking you about the morality of the enhanced interrogation techniques, the waterboarding. At the time that you were involved in it, in fact, fairly directly, you express no moral concerns. In fact, you have suggested that it was trade -- good tradecraft, and that it contributed to information that was developed.

If one of your operation's officers was captured and subject to waterboarding, today or tomorrow or the next day...

PROTESTER: Sorry to interrupt here -- Senator Wyden, your -- your (inaudible).

BURR: Senator will suspend. Capitol Police will remove.

PROTESTER: Waterboarding (inaudible), waterboarding of Al Azhari (ph) and (inaudible).

(UNKNOWN): Stop resisting. Stop resisting!

PROTESTER: (Inaudible)

[11:50:00]

(UNKNOWN): Stop resisting!

PROTESTER: (Inaudible).

BURR: If there are any further disruptions, I will ask the Capitol Police to remove all individuals.

The senator can continue.

REED: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

If one of your operators were captured, subjected to waterboarding and enhanced interrogation techniques, which you, I believe, supervise. Would you consider that to be moral since, perhaps, the other entity did not have legal restrictions and good trade craft as you appeared to do when you were involved in it, previously?

HASPEL: Senator, I don't believe the terrorists follow any guidelines or civilized norms or the law. CIA follows the law.

REED: Excuse me, madam. You seem to be saying that you were not following civilized norms and the law or anything else when you were conducting those (inaudible) activities, if that's the analogy you're going to draw.

HASPEL: Senator, I'm sorry, can you -- I can't...

REED: It's very simple. You have an operations officer who is captured. He is being waterboarded. I've asked you, very simply, would you determine that to be immoral and something that should never be done, condoned in any way, shape or form? Your response seems to be that civilized nations don't do it, but uncivilized nations do it -- or uncivilized groups do it.

(CROSSTALK)

A civilized nation was doing it until it was outlawed by this Congress.

HASPEL: Senator, I would never obviously support inhumane treatment of any CIA officers. We've lost CIA officers over the years to terrorists, I just gave an example. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed personally killed a Wall Street Journal correspondent and filmed that.

I don't think there's any comparison between CIA officers serving their country, adhering to U.S. law and terrorists who by their very definition are not following anybody's law.

REED: Finally, in the morale report which you've somewhat acknowledged, there was opposition to the destruction of the tapes by two White House Counsels, the Counsel to the Vice President, the DNI, the DCIA and a member of the Congress.

And yet those tapes were destroyed. Do you consider that to be insubordinate actions without the - the director - the next - this case, Mr. Goss, being notified?

HASPEL: Senator, I think that in consultation with the director was essential, and a lesson coming out of that is the importance of making sure all the stakeholders have agreed to include congressional oversight. There's also a leadership lesson, don't let real security issues go unaddressed.

REED: So the action was insubordinate and you would not countenance anyone in your organization doing something like that?

HASPEL: I expect my officers to bring those difficult issues to me and I think I have a reputation for not just leaving them in the inbox. I do -- I will say this, Mr. Rodriguez has taken full accountability for his decision, which he thought he was operating under his own authority.

REED: Thank you.

BURR: Senator's time's expired. The -- we've come to the conclusion of the open session. And I would duly note for members, it's my understanding that we're going to have two recorded votes starting at 12:00. My intention's to start the closed hearing immediately after the second vote.

And the Vice Chairman and I would like to make some closing statements. I do want to take the opportunity Ms. Haspel, since two individuals have been mentioned. And they will be the subject of conversation in a closed session.

But for the American peoples purpose, would you share for them who Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is and Nashiri?

HASPEL: Chairman, thank you. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the architect and mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. His nephew, Ramzi Yousef was behind the '93 attack on the World Trade Center and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed financed that operation.

He also was behind the infamous Bojinka plot in the Philippines. Tragically, he was the individual who personally killed a Wall Street Journal American correspondent and filmed that heinous act. He also, after 9/11 carried out an attack on a synagogue in Tunisia, --

11:55:00]

-- and he had other attacks planned.

We were able to warn allies about a planned attack for example on Heathrow Airport. Mr. Nashiri was the Emir of the attack in 2000 on the USS Cole, in which we lost 17 sailors. He also was behind the attack on a French ship, the Limburg, and he was the Al Qaeda Chief of Operations in the Gulf and the Arabian peninsula.

BURR: I thank you for that. I think it's important to put into context when individuals are mentioned. What their role was in terrorism and why they were the focus of not only the agency, but law enforcement. With that, I'd like to recognize the Vice Chairman for any closing statements he'd like to make.

[11:56:04]

WARNER: Thank you Mr. Chairman. First of all, I want to submit for the record to refresh my colleagues memories the testimony of then nominee John Brennan who quite explicitly --

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King.

We're going to leave this hearing live on Capitol Hill to take you straight over to the White House to the president of the United States. Let's listen.

(CROSSTALK)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (INAUDIBLE). Within three days. We're just working the arrangements. But within three days.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: It will not be there.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you deserve the Nobel Prize, do you think?

TRUMP: Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it.

(LAUGHTER)

You know what I want to do? I want to get it finished. The prize I want is a victory for the world. Not for even here. I want victory for the world. That's what we're talking about. That's the only prize I want.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

TRUMP: Everything can be scuttled. Everything can be scuttled. A lot of things can happen. A lot of good things can happen. A lot of bad things can happen. I believe that both sides will negotiate a deal. I think it's going to be a very successful deal. I think we have a really good shot at making it successful. But lots of things could happen. Of course, you'll be the first to know if it does. But we have a very good chance to make a good deal for the world.

Thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION).

TRUMP: Iran will find out. They're going to find out. I don't think they should do that. I would advise Iran not to start their nuclear program. I would advise them very strongly. If they do, there will be very severe consequences, OK?

Thank you very much. Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, everybody out. Let's go.

TRUMP: Thank you.

KING: You see the president of the United States in the cabinet room at the White House taking questions on a day of remarkable breaking news here in the United States and around the world. The president there answering questions about a dramatic, positive development, the release of three Americans who have been in detention in North Korea, they are now on their way home, traveling with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was in North Korea finalizing plans for more history, the Donald Trump/Kim Jong-Un summit. We're waiting on the dates on that. The president during that session in the cabinet room ruling out that it might be held at the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. We don't know exactly where just yet. The president, you just heard him, saying there will be severe consequences if Iran restarts their nuclear program.

That in the wake of the president's dramatic decision yesterday, now reverberating worldwide, to pull the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal agreement. A lot to discuss.

Also on Capitol Hill, the president's nominee to be the new CIA director answering touch questions about her role in a very sad chapter in CIA history, post-911.

With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN's Jeff Zeleny, our national security correspondent, CNN's Jim Sciutto, and Rachael Bade of "Politico."

Let's start with the president in the Oval Office. I'm going to do this a little backwards. The last thing we heard from the president was about Iran. That is the worry of the European allies of the United States, that Iran will see the United States pulling out as a green light to go back to the business it agreed to stop, a nuclear weapons program. Iran's government saying, no, at least as of today, it will abide by its commitments. What is the president's calculation here?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONALS SECURITY ANALYST: It's not clear if the president is threatening military action there. He said very severe consequences. He has used similar language a couple of weeks ago. My reporting and the reporting of some of my colleagues is that military action is certainly not the first choice, and there's no clear Plan B for that, if that were to take place. It appears that they will raise the economic pressure and move forward. What's interesting is what the Iranians are saying because, in the midst of some very tough talk today, the Iranians did say, in effect, listen, if the European partners are still on board with this plan, we're still on board with this plan. That's interesting, because we know -- the European partners have said as much. They said a strong statement yesterday, moments after the president made his announcement. So you could have a scenario where Iran stays in, where France, Germany --

[12:00:00]