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Gina Haspel. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The concern that Gina Haspel could restart the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" program is misplaced, according to former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden, who says President Trump is "the last president" the CIA would do it for.

"There is no [CIA] director who has been involved with this who would say we're going to do this again. That's not a repudiation of what we did, it's just a realization that we did it once before, we thought you had our back, and you didn't."
— Hayden in an interview with Axios

Hayden added that Haspel is the "perfect choice" for CIA director because she will stand up to Trump: "We have an administration that seems less tethered to objective reality in making its decision than previous administrations ... When the president says something and everyone else in the room says 'You're right, boss,' Gina Haspel is the one who will raise an objection if the objection needs to be raised."

Why it matters: Sen. Mark Warner, Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in an interview with NPR affiliate WHRO on Monday that one of the things he's looking to hear from Haspel during her confirmation hearing with the committee on Wednesday is what she would do if Trump attempted to order the CIA to reintroduce torture techniques.

The big picture: The CIA's "enhanced interrogation" program and black site prisons, which Haspel was involved with following the 9/11 attacks, have largely been regarded as torture. But those in the Intelligence Community say the program was cleared through the appropriate channels.

  • Larry Pfeiffer, former chief of staff to Gen. Hayden and director of the situation room for President Obama, told Axios it was "quite a blow" to see Congress "act as if this was something they had never been briefed on and acknowledged and supported."

What they're saying:

  • 109 retired military leaders signed a letter last month that stated they "do not accept efforts to excuse [Haspel's] actions relating to torture and other unlawful abuses of detainees by offering that she was 'just following orders...''
  • Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a member of the Intelligence Committee, said he is "very open-minded" to her nomination after meeting with her on Monday, according to Bloomberg's Laura Litvan.
  • Pfeiffer told Axios: "The wheels of justice have turned and turned on [debating this program], and we as a nation need to put it behind us."

Go deeper

Biden to sign 15 executive actions on Day One

President-elect Joe Biden. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to sign 15 executive actions upon taking office Wednesday, immediately reversing key Trump administration policies.

Why it matters: The 15 actions — aimed at issues like climate change and immigration — mark more drastic immediate steps compared with the two day-one actions from Biden's four predecessors combined, according to incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Off the Rails

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Elijah Nouvelage, Alex Wong/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence. Trump believes the vice president can solve all his problems by simply refusing to certify the Electoral College results. It's a simple test of loyalty: Trump or the U.S. Constitution.

"The end is coming, Donald."

The male voice in the TV ad boomed through the White House residence during "Fox & Friends" commercial breaks. Over and over and over. "The end is coming, Donald. ... On Jan. 6, Mike Pence will put the nail in your political coffin."

Big Tech's post-riot reckoning

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The Capitol insurrection means the anti-tech talk in Washington is more likely to lead to action, since it's ever clearer that the attack was planned, at least in part, on social media.

Why it matters: The big platforms may have hoped they'd move to D.C.'s back burner, with the Hill focused on the Biden agenda and the pandemic out of control. But now, there'll be no escaping harsh scrutiny.