March 13, 2018

Editor's note: After this article was published, ProPublica retracted the specific claims that Gina Haspel "was in charge of a secret prison in Thailand during the infamous interrogation of an al Qaeda suspect" and that she "mocked the prisoner's suffering." The publication stood by its other torture-related reporting on Haspel. Our original report appears below:

Gina Haspel, President Trump's newly-minted nominee to head the CIA, was directly involved in waterboarding and torturing, a ProPublica investigation found. The subject was a man believed to be an al Qaeda leader, and the torture apparently took place while Haspel was working under the Bush administration.

Haspel led the charge at a "black site" in Thailand, a secret prison where the CIA interrogated suspects. In 2002, Haspel oversaw the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded 83 times in one month. "They slammed him against a wall, confined him for hours in a coffin-like box, and deprived him of sleep," ProPublica wrote in its report, published last year and resurfaced Tuesday. In the end, Zubaydah was found not to be associated with al Qaeda after all.

In addition to her prominent role at the black sites, Haspel reportedly pushed to destroy tapes that held video recordings of the torture. After being promoted to a more senior position, Haspel drafted an order to shred the tapes, ProPublica reported, and they were eventually destroyed without approval from the White House or Justice Department. The cover-up led the Senate Intelligence Committee to launch a probe into the torture program.

A CIA spokesperson denied the allegations about Haspel, telling ProPublica that "nearly every piece of the reporting that you are seeking comment on is incorrect in whole or in part."

On Tuesday, Trump tapped Haspel to lead the CIA, following his nomination of current director Mike Pompeo to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. In his announcement, Trump praised Haspel's working relationship with Pompeo — but when Haspel was first chosen as Pompeo's second-in-command, her nomination sparked anger from human rights activists and lawmakers alike, including Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), who penned a letter to Trump urging him to reconsider his choice, citing her "background."

Read more about Haspel at ProPublica. Summer Meza

12:55 p.m. ET

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired earlier this month by Attorney General Jeff Sessions because he allegedly "lacked candor," published an op-ed about the experience at The Washington Post Friday night:

On March 16, I spent the day with my family waiting to hear whether I would be fired, after 21 years in the FBI and one day before I qualified for my long-planned, earned retirement.

As day turned to night, I had a lot of time to reflect on how it would feel to be separated from the organization I loved — and led — and the mission that has been the central focus of my professional life. Despite all the preparation for the worst-case scenario, I still felt disoriented and sick to my stomach. Around 10 p.m., a friend called to tell me that CNN was reporting that I had been fired. She read me the attorney general's statement.

So, after two decades of public service, I found out that I had been fired in the most disembodied, impersonal way — third-hand, based on a news account. [...] Not in my worst nightmares did I ever dream my FBI career would end this way. [The Washington Post]

The morning after the firing, McCabe continued, he "woke to find the president of the United States celebrating [his] punishment" as a "great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI - A great day for Democracy." Trump since then has continued his attacks on McCabe, claiming that the former FBI agent's memos chronicling their meetings together were fabricated after the fact.

Read the full article at the Post. Bonnie Kristian

12:32 p.m. ET

Protesters are gathering at some 700 student-led March for Our Lives events nationwide on Saturday to demand stricter gun regulations, and they're armed — if you'll pardon the pun — with signs both clever and poignant.

Half a million people are expected at the main rally in Washington, D.C. President Trump is at his resort in Florida for the weekend and has yet to personally comment on the marches, but the White House issued a statement "applaud[ing] the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights today."

See some of the most memorable protest signs below. Bonnie Kristian

11:56 a.m. ET

President Trump came under fire Saturday for his announcement late Friday evening that transgender people who "may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery" will not be able to join the military "except under certain limited circumstances."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) condemned Trump's memo as "cowardly" and "disgusting," arguing it is "purpose-built to humiliate our brave transgender members of the military who serve with honor and dignity":

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough suggested on Twitter the memo was timed to distract from the $1.3 trillion omnibus bill Trump signed earlier Friday, a spending package slammed by conservatives as "an embarrassment and a disgrace":

Meanwhile, Republican pundit Ana Navarro, who is firmly #NeverTrump, referenced Trump's draft deferrals during the Vietnam War in a tweeted response:

Congressional Republicans have kept quiet about the memo so far. Bonnie Kristian

10:39 a.m. ET
ABC 9 KETV/Screenshot

An Iowa family of four was found dead Friday inside their vacation condo in Tulum, Mexico, local authorities reported. Police said there are "no signs of traumatic injury," and a relative of the family reported on Facebook there "was no foul play." Autopsies will be conducted to determine the cause of death, which some reports have suggested was a gas leak.

Kevin Sharp, 41, his wife Amy, 38, and their children Sterling, 12, and Adrianna, 7, were from Creston, Iowa. The Sharps owned a beer distribution company, and Kevin raced stock cars.

"We watched the flights leave Cancun and land in St. Louis. We watched the last one leave Cancun. We were hoping that we would hear from them then. When we did not we knew that something was wrong," said Jana Wedlund, Amy's cousin. "The only thing we're thankful for, the only thing they've given us hope for, is that it was very peaceful." Bonnie Kristian

10:33 a.m. ET
Daniel Leal-Olivas/Getty Images

The London offices of Cambridge Analytica were raided overnight Friday by agents of the United Kingdom's Information Commissioner's office. The seven-hour search, which completed early Saturday, was authorized by a warrant to investigate the company's database and servers.

"This is just one part of a larger investigation into the use of personal data and analytics for political purposes," said the Information Commissioner's office of the raid. "As you will expect, we will now need to collect, assess, and consider the evidence before coming to any conclusions."

Cambridge Analytica is the data firm alleged to have illicitly acquired and used information from the Facebook profiles of tens of millions of Americans for targeted campaign ads. The Trump campaign was among its clients, as was a super PAC organized by incoming National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Cambridge Analytica and Facebook both deny illegal conduct, and Facebook has suspended the data firm from its service. Bonnie Kristian

10:27 a.m. ET

South Korea announced Saturday it has finalized plans for high-level talks with North Korea this coming Thursday.

Each country will be represented by three delegates who will meet in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in advance of planned negotiations between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which will in turn be followed by discussion between Kim and President Trump. The date of the Trump-Kim summit has yet to be set.

"Through these talks and future talks, we must end the nuclear and peace issue on the Korean Peninsula," Moon said of the arrangement. "It is necessary to make it possible for the two Koreas to live together peacefully without interfering with each other or damaging each other." Bonnie Kristian

8:20 a.m. ET
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Student-led March for Our Lives rallies are scheduled in Washington and cities across the United States on Saturday. About 500,000 people are expected to gather in the capital alone, and some 700 additional protests for stricter gun laws are listed on the march website.

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where the mass shooting on Valentine's Day left 17 people dead, are among the 20 speakers scheduled for the primary event in Washington. All the speakers are 18 or younger, and they will be accompanied by performances from celebrities including Ariana Grande, Common, and Miley Cyrus.

March for Our Lives' student organizers say Saturday's protests are just the beginning of their gun control campaign. "We want to continue what we're doing, especially leading up to November," said Jaclyn Corin, 17, from Parkland. "We want every young person to register to vote and head to the polls, no matter who they're voting for or what party they've voting for." Bonnie Kristian

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