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President Donald Trump and some of his conservative allies have become increasingly frustrated with CIA Director Gina Haspel in recent weeks, accusing her of delaying the release of documents they believe would expose so-called “deep state” plots against Trump’s campaign and transition during the Obama administration, according to multiple current and former officials.
Those frustrations have lingered since Election Day, with a senior administration official and three former administration officials with knowledge of the situation telling CNN they expect the President to remove Haspel from her post, as he did Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday.
FBI Director Christopher Wray has also provoked Trump’s ire, fueling some uncertainty about his future, according to the same sources.
A source close to the President said Trump and his top aides did have discussions about firing Wray prior to the election. Those conversations appeared to hinge on Trump winning the election, meaning the President was more likely to have taken such a move had he beaten Joe Biden.
“There were discussions over it,” the source said of the potential to fire Wray. “Lots of discussions.”
If Trump were to fire Haspel and Wray, who along with Esper are two of his most senior national security officials, it would likely add to the sense of chaos inside the administration as the President refuses to concede defeat in an election is projected to win.
Haspel has consistently raised concerns about how declassifying or releasing documents related to the FBI’s Russia investigation could compromise sources and methods, at times pushing back against Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and the White House, multiple sources told CNN.
While Ratcliffe ultimately has the authority to declassify additional materials at his own discretion, several influential Trump advisers have recently focused their ire on Haspel, who, until now, has managed to keep a relatively low profile during her time as CIA director and even seemed to win the President over early on.
Haspel went to the mat on protecting sources and methods and that is what Trump is angry about, one former top administration of official with knowledge of the situation told CNN. Trump and Ratcliffe simply do not understand that unveiling this information will be devastating to national security, they added.
The attacks on Haspel became more acute in the days and weeks leading up to the election, fueling questions about her job status regardless of whether Trump was reelected.
“That’s the problem with Trump. To survive you need to become complicit. It’s like the mafia. You need to be a made man to thrive,” former CIA officer John Sipher told CNN.
White House spokesman Judd Deere declined to say whether Trump is indeed frustrated with his CIA director or whether he plans to fire her following the ouster of Esper, telling CNN Monday: “If the President doesn’t have confidence in someone he will let you know. The White House does not speculate or comment on personnel matters.”
However, some current and former national security officials who have worked with Haspel told CNN they think it is a good thing for the CIA director to distance herself from the President ahead of the election as the intelligence community continues to grapple with allegations of partisanship atop its ranks. “You don’t want to go through the Trump presidency having never stood up, always going along,” one former official said.
The CIA and FBI declined to comment.
Multiple sources have told CNN that Haspel is unlikely to preemptively resign despite knowing that the President is frustrated with her and could move to fire her before Inauguration Day, when she is expected to step down anyway.
“President Trump must not invite further volatility by removing any Senate-confirmed intelligence or national security officials during his time left in office,” Mark Warner, the top Democrat Senate Intelligence Committee said in a statement Monday.