Axios: CIA Director Haspel Threatened to Quit Over Trump Deputy Plans CIA Director Gina Haspel. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
By Sandy Fitzgerald | Saturday, 16 January 2021 12:07 PM
Just weeks after the 2020 presidential election, CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign over President Donald Trump's plans to install loyalist Kash Patel as her deputy with an eye toward replacing her, according to three senior administration officials.
Last-minute interruptions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone stopped the plans, reports Axios.
Over the past year, Trump started to distrust Haspel and wanted to replace her, and some of his closest allies had started to raise doubts about her.
Meanwhile, six days after the election, Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, replacing him with counterterrorism chief Chris Miller and moved Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes R-Calif., in as Miller's chief of staff, even though Patel had no military experience.
According to Axios' sources, Trump told confidants that he wanted to push out CIA Deputy Director Vaughn Bishop and replace him with Patel. If Haspel quit over the assignment, he had said Patel or another ally could lead the CIA.
Patel was the key author of a memo from Nunes that accused the Department of Justice and the FBI of abusing surveillance laws to take down Trump.
Meanwhile, Trump was becoming convinced that the CIA had documents that would harm enemies like former President Barack Obama, former CIA Director John Brennan, and Hillary Clinton.
Patel was considered as someone who would do what Trump wanted to do without questioning the orders or slow-walking them. Patel, however, told Axios that that characterization was "a total lie" about his relationship with the president.
Patel served in several capacities already in the Trump administration.
On Dec. 8, Trump summoned Patel, who had been traveling in Asia with Miller, back to Washington. At the same time, the president told White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to tell Haspel that Bishop was being fired and was being replaced with Patel.
The paperwork had already been drafted to formalize Patel as the new deputy director of the CIA, with Trump planning to name Patel on Dec. 11, but on that same day, Haspel decided to attend the president's daily intelligence briefing for the first time in weeks.