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Kelly Sadler was discussing McCain's opposition to Haspel when she made the comment, according to the two people, who described feeling shocked and stunned by the remark. Trump, at one point, ridiculed McCain's military service and said "he's not a war hero."

Haspel, the CIA's acting director and a career intelligence officer, answered one question after another about her role - some senators asked about her morals - in overseeing some CIA operations in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

But Haspel refused to disavow her past actions related to the program, arguing that she had been led to believe they were legal at the time. He also told ProPublica, "She may have thought I was going to talk to more people about it before hitting 'send, ' but I had made up my mind".

He concluded: "While Acting Director Haspel did assert that she would refuse to restart CIA's detention and interrogation program, she did not provide much-needed clarity about her reported role overseeing the program or the destruction of the videotapes". There, she wrote several pieces that cast Trump's presidency in a positive light.

In a tweet late Wednesday, Trump gushed: "Gina Haspel did a spectacular job today". "But her boss says he told her otherwise".

Daphne Eviatar, Director of Security with Human Rights at Amnesty International USA, said: "Ever since President Trump nominated Gina Haspel to become Central Intelligence Agency director we have called for her nomination to be withdrawn pending proper investigation and declassification of her alleged role in the CIA's programme of torture and enforced disappearances".

"I believe Gina Haspel is a patriot who loves our country and has devoted her professional life to its service and defense", McCain said. She volunteered that the Central Intelligence Agency would not on her watch engage in interrogations; she said she supported the "stricter moral standard" the country had adopted after debating the interrogation program.

Chambliss says he traveled overseas extensively during his time on the committee, and never were lawmakers "less than significantly impressed by the leadership" she provided to the Central Intelligence Agency. "She is ideally suited to become the next and first female director of the Central Intelligence Agency".

Burr says some may seek to turn her nomination into a trial about a long-shuttered program.

The protesters began yelling, "stop the torture, stop the torture" and "don't reward torture". "I can report to you that during this time I have always found Ms. Haspel to be open, forthcoming, and truthful".

The protesters were among the first to be allowed into the hearing room and wore signs that read "No Torture No Gina" and "Don't Reward Torturers".