In a stunning move, President Trump has named a new Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) who has no experience in America’s intelligence or national security agencies.
Ambassador Richard Grenell is a political hack currently serving in Germany, where he became most famous for publicly supporting Europe’s far-right political parties, including a budding neo-Nazi movement in the nation where he’s posted. Politicians in his host nation labeled him a “brat” and a “diplomatic failure.”
The current Acting DNI, Joseph Maguire, is a qualified national security official and took on the job after former Indiana Senator Dan Coats suddenly quit last July as the nascent Trump-Ukraine scandal was unfolding in the White House.
Donald Trump had originally tried to replace former DNI Coats with the partisan hack Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX), whose thin resume included being a small-town mayor and a limited stint as a prosecutor, for the cabinet-level position overseeing America’s more than dozen global intelligence agencies. His appointment violated the law requiring a permanent appointee to have extensive intelligence experience, sending Ratcliffe back to Congress.
But since Grenell has already been confirmed by the Senate for his ambassadorship, it appears Trump can just move him into the DNI slot, even though Grenell does not have any intelligence experience either.
But he does have the most important qualification to Trump — loyalty.
Grenell is Senate-confirmed already. Meaning Trump doesn't need to reach down to the next highest-ranking senate-confirmed ODNI official, Michael Atkinson, the ICIG, who sparked the Ukraine investigation. https://t.co/mStB92HVre
— Alexander Marquardt (@MarquardtA) February 19, 2020
The New York Times reports:
Mr. Grenell, whose outspokenness throughout his career as a political operative and then as ambassador has prompted criticism, is a vocal Trump loyalist who will lead a group of national security agencies often viewed skeptically by the White House.
Richard Grenell’s professional resume is highlighted by eight years as America’s spokesman at the United Nations before becoming a political commentator on Fox News as well as a media and public affairs consultant. The openly gay Grenell caused a firestorm on now-Senator Mitt Romney’s (R-UT) campaign when he was hired as its foreign policy spokesman, then quickly sidelined for being gay because of discrimination by Republican evangelicals.
The President appointed Grenell to his Ambassadorship in late 2017 and he was confirmed twenty-two months ago in a close vote in the Senate.
Besides political hackery, it’s hard to understand why Donald Trump would choose someone best known for their outspokenness for a job whose main requirement is an incredibly high level of discretion and silence about the important mission carried out by those men and women who serve in our nation’s clandestine services.
When Trump’s former lawyers contacted Grenell about their new client, an indicted Russian-mafia linked Ukrainian oligarch named Dmitry Firtash, according to former fixer Lev Parnas, the Ambassador to Germany took the call, but he wouldn’t talk to The Daily Beast about the affair.
Perhaps that’s why Donald Trump does have reason to believe that Richard Grenell knows how to keep his mouth shut when it’s time to cover up for his criminal activities.
But now nothing can stop our out-of-control Republican President from appointing someone with only a foreign policy spokesperson’s background to be in charge of the globe-spanning CIA, the NSA’s electronic intelligence gatherers, and numerous other military and civilian agencies in the broader intelligence community whose job is to protect our country from foreign adversaries.
Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition