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"This is a woman who has been a leader wherever she has gone". Ron Wyden, a senior Democrat on the committee, said he expects the most crucial portions of Haspel's confirmation hearing will be conducted behind closed doors, which he said sets a risky precedent.

"Given [Gina] Haspel's role in the CIA's now-defunct torture program, a vote to confirm her is incompatible with any kind of meaningful commitment to the prohibition on torture and so-called 'enhanced interrogation, '" said the petition to be sent to the Senate, which had garnered 255 signatures by Tuesday evening, a day before Haspel's confirmation hearings. Some lawmakers have read the 6,000-page still-classified report on the detention and interrogation program that the Senate intelligence committee issued in 2014.

Last week, the Washington Post reported that Haspel was considering withdrawing from the nomination process; it's not yet clear whether she has enough support in the closely divided Senate for confirmation.

"That Trump chose someone with one of the most gruesome torture histories to lead the Central Intelligence Agency is certainly revealing about who he is", he wrote.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has also said he opposes Haspel's nomination because of her participation in the torture program.

Short, the White House legislative affairs director, told Haspel she could still be confirmed despite the information that had recently come to attention of the White House - and the administration expected some Democrats to support her, officials said.

Trump then phoned the staffers to push for Haspel to remain as nominee, the Post's sources said.

Lawmakers had complained that despite repeated requests the CIA has failed to declassify information about her more than 30-year undercover career at the agency.

"Given that Trump chose to do that, it's critical that there be this conversation", Bloche said in an interview.

With dozens of Democrats saying they will vote against her, support from Maine's senators could be pivotal.

In the less than two months since Haspel's nomination to replace Mike Pompeo, now secretary of State, was announced, the deputy has faced increased scrutiny over her past.

The news of Haspel's offer to withdraw comes less than two weeks after another Trump nominee, Ronny Jackson, withdrew his own nomination to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary over misconduct allegations.

While she has won praise from Washington insiders - including Obama Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director Michael Hayden, she will likely face questions on the Hill about her connection to sites where waterboarding took place.

Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, on Sunday called Haspel a highly qualified nominee. Discussions stretched several hours, officials said, and the White House was not entirely sure she would stick with her nomination until Saturday afternoon, according to the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.