Haspel met with the Kentucky Republican, who has backed President Trump’s recent litigation push in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election results, but who was also against the firing of Esper in the lead up to the inauguration, Politico reported Saturday.
Haspel and McConnell met for roughly 20 minutes, but neither of them could be reached by Fox News to confirm Haspel’s future as CIA director.
Reports surfaced just days prior to the election that Esper, Haspel and FBI Director Christopher Wray were headed for the chopping block following the election because of various issues that frustrated the president.
Haspel reportedly got on the wrong side of Trump after she refused to declassify documents that the Trump administration believed would aid in providing support to John Durham’s probe into the investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign’s connections with Russia, Axios first reported last month.
The CIA directors’ decision to protect assets rather than release the documents reportedly proved to be an irritation to Trump, a similar theme in his decision to fire Esper Monday.
The defense secretary was removed from his position five months after speaking out against using the Insurrection Act during the nationwide protests this summer. The 1807 Act would have permitted Trump to deploy military forces or National Guard troops within the U.S.
“The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire situations,” Esper said in June. “We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”
Esper was reportedly caught off guard by his removal, but was informed of his position change by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows shortly before Trump announced it on Twitter.
“Mark Esper has been terminated,” Trump wrote. “I would like to thank him for his service.”
Wray has also found himself in the lineup of officials likely to be ousted, after he frustrated Trump by not opening an investigation into Hunter Biden’s foreign business connections.
The FBI director also testified in late September to the Senate Homeland Security Committee that the bureau did not have evidence of widespread voter fraud connected to mail-in voting – likely another sticking point with the president who ran his campaign alleging such fraud was imminent in the general election.
Democrats have expressed their concern with the abrupt removal of lead security officials.
“President Trump’s decision to fire Secretary Esper out of spite is not just childish, it’s also reckless,” Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Adam Smith, D-Wash., said in a statement Monday. It has long been clear that President Trump cares about loyalty above all else, often at the expense of competence, and during a period of presidential transition competence in government is of the utmost importance.”
Brook Singman contributed to this report.