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Trump, on Twitter, defends CIA nominee, slams ‘witch hunt’

President Donald Trump leaves the White House for

President Donald Trump leaves the White House for Dallas to address the NRA on Friday. Credit: AP / J. Scott Applewhite

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Monday to defend his pick for CIA director, Gina Haspel, amid reports that she had considered withdrawing her nomination. The president also repeated his criticisms of the special counsel’s ongoing Russia probe, saying he was “fighting back.”

After taking a break from his favored social media platform on Sunday, Trump awoke Monday to tweet his support for Haspel, a day after reports in The Washington Post and The New York Times indicated that she had offered to withdraw her nomination to White House officials on Friday. Haspel — whom Trump tapped to replace former CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who was recently sworn in as secretary of state — reportedly told officials she was concerned that her role in the interrogations of terrorism suspects would derail her confirmation.

Several Democrats, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), have pressed the CIA to release more information on Haspel’s classified work during her more than 30 years with the CIA — including reports that she was involved in the destruction of dozens of videotapes that captured the brutal interrogations of al-Qaida suspects who were detained at a covert CIA detention facility in Thailand in 2002.

“My highly respected nominee for CIA Director, Gina Haspel, has come under fire because she was too tough on Terrorists,” Trump tweeted. “Think of that, in these very dangerous times, we have the most qualified person, a woman, who Democrats want OUT because she is too tough on terror. Win Gina!”

Haspel was reportedly urged by senior administration officials to remain in the running for the top CIA post. She met informally with lawmakers on Monday, ahead of her Wednesday confirmation hearing.

On Twitter, Trump also took aim at special counsel Robert Mueller’s wide-reaching probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, accusing Mueller of making up “a phony crime” to keep the investigation going.

“The Russia Witch Hunt is rapidly losing credibility. House Intelligence Committee found No Collusion, Coordination or anything else with Russia,” Trump tweeted. “So now the Probe says OK, what else is there? How about Obstruction for a made up, phony crime. There is no O, it’s called Fighting Back.”

Last month, the GOP-controlled House Intelligence Committee issued a report clearing the Trump campaign of any collusion with Russia, but the report was released over the protest of the committee’s Democrats, who argued that Republicans rushed to release a partisan report without fully investigating ties between Trump campaign aides and Russian operatives.

Mueller is reportedly looking into whether Trump sought to obstruct justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey, who at the time was overseeing the Russia investigation. Trump, who initially said he fired Comey over his handling of the Hillary Clinton email server probe, later told NBC News’ Lester Holt days after Comey’s ouster that the Russia investigation played a role in his termination.

Trump also took aim at the makeup of the special counsel’s investigative team, accusing the Democrats on the panel of leading a “witch hunt.” Though the panel is led by Mueller, a registered Republican, voter registration information indicates that 13 of the 17 investigators have previously registered as Democrats, according to The Washington Post.

“The 13 Angry Democrats in charge of the Russian Witch Hunt are starting to find out that there is a Court System in place that actually protects people from injustice . . . and just wait ‘till the Courts get to see your unrevealed Conflicts of Interest!,” Trump tweeted.

The president also urged voters in West Virginia’s Republican Senate primary to vote against coal baron Don Blankenship, whose candidacy has been shrouded in controversy over his use of racial attacks aimed at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. Blankenship released an ad last week suggesting McConnell’s “China family has given him tens of millions of dollars.” Chao was born in Taiwan.

Trump on Twitter reminded West Virginia voters that Democrats picked up a Senate seat in Alabama last year after Republican Roy Moore was defeated amid allegations that he behaved inappropriately with girls during his law enforcement career.

“To the great people of West Virginia we have, together, a really great chance to keep making a big difference,” Trump tweeted. “Problem is, Don Blankenship, currently running for Senate, can’t win the General Election in your State . . . No way! Remember Alabama. Vote Rep. Jenkins or A.G. Morrisey!”

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