The mystery surrounding President Trump’s abrupt decision to fire the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and replace him with loyalist political hack Ambassador Ric Grennell just took a deeply sinister turn after two news reports appeared to reveal his disturbing motivations behind the sudden shakeup atop America’s national security apparatus.
A new report indicates that Trump fired current acting DNI Joseph Maguire by declining a permanent nomination due to a briefing that his staff gave to Congress about election interference matters in the ongoing 2020 presidential race.
The top intelligence official in charge of combating foreign election attacks, Shelby Pierson, briefed the full House Intelligence Committee last Thursday on the threat posed by Russian interference to the 2020 election.
The Washington Post reports, “the president erroneously believed that she had given information exclusively to Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the committee chairman and that the information would be helpful to Democrats if it were released publicly, the people familiar with the matter said.”
Because of that briefing, Trump suddenly didn’t want to make Maguire the DNI anymore. The Washington Post reports that “Maguire, a career official who is respected by the intelligence rank and file, had been considered a leading candidate to be nominated for the post of DNI, White House aides had said. But Trump’s opinion shifted last week when he heard from a GOP ally about the official’s remarks.”
We have since learned that the substance of that briefing focused on ongoing Russian efforts to interfere in the 2020 election — which Trump did not want to reach the public, lest it is used as a weapon against him on the campaign trail.
Intelligence officials warned House lawmakers last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get President Trump re-elected, five people familiar with the matter said, in a disclosure that angered Mr. Trump, who complained that Democrats would use it against him.
Vice-Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) decried Trump’s decision to elevate Grenell to the Post, complaining that the man was “without any intelligence experience” and that the president was abusing statutory authority “in an effort to sidestep the Senate’s constitutional authority to advise and consent on such critical national security positions.”
“So the Grenell appointment is exactly what it looks like,” tweeted former DOJ spokesman Matthew Miller about the Times’ story, “a bid to politicize intelligence and hide information from Congress in an election year where Russia is again helping Trump.”
The Senate Intel Committee’s GOP Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) has predictably been silent on Trump’s purge of the head of the U.S. intelligence community.
If that’s not bad enough, more details about the former Fox contributor who will soon hold the most sensitive and consequential intelligence job in our government have come spilling out, and they’re not pretty.
Reporting in 2018 by a former NSA official soon after Generll’s posting to Germany revealed that the Ambassador’s communications company was heavily involved in foreign advocacy, but didn’t file the kind of foreign agency registrations that could be required in that business, and spent a good amount of time in 2016 defending an Eastern European human trafficking crime boss in the press.
Grennell’s close relationship with the deceased former political consultant Arthur Finkelstein — whom he declared a “genius” that gave him “invaluable” advice in a since-deleted obituary tweet — is another cause for concern.
Nicknamed the “merchant of venom,” Finklestein turned the word liberal into a Republican epithet as one of Ronald Reagan’s top advisors and was heavily involved in overseas politics.
His exploits include helping resurrect Israel’s now-indicted right-wing Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu as well as working in Eastern European countries like Hungary, where he was close to its pro-Russia, right-wing authoritarian leader Viktor Orban.
Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump wants someone atop America’s national intelligence agencies whose background is in weaponizing political information to manage the fact that there’s no need to “weaponize” his relationship with Russia; it is just a fact of the modern GOP that they are in league with a foreign adversary.
Now, our nation’s national security is truly threatened by the recalcitrant President Trump, who firmly believes that he is the state, and his pusillanimously flaccid Republican Party who is content to let him act that way.
Original reporting on Maguire’s dismissmal was by Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Anne Gearan at the Washington Post.
Original reporting on the Russian election interference was by Adam Goldman, Julian E. Barnes, Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Fandos at the New York Times.
Grant Stern is the Executive Editor of Occupy Democrats 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