President Donald Trump has named Richard Grenell, the American ambassador to Germany, to lead the US intelligence community as acting director of national intelligence, in a move that sparked condemnation by Democrats.
“I am pleased to announce that our highly respected ambassador to Germany, @RichardGrenell, will become the acting director of national intelligence,” the US president wrote on Twitter. “Rick has represented our country exceedingly well and I look forward to working with him.”
Mr Grenell, a former US spokesman at the UN when John Bolton was the American ambassador at the international organisation, will succeed Joseph Maguire, a retired navy admiral. He had been serving as acting DNI since the departure of Dan Coats, a former Indiana senator who had also served as US ambassador to Germany.
Mr Maguire came to national prominence last year over his role in determining that the CIA whistleblower who sparked the Ukraine-related impeachment investigation had valid concerns that needed to be looked into.
Democrats castigated the move to name Mr Grenell due to his lack of experience in the intelligence field, particularly given that the position oversees the 17 security agencies that make up the US intelligence community. They also criticised Mr Trump for naming Mr Grenell as the “acting” head of the intelligence community, a move that prevents the Senate from its traditional role of vetting official nominations.
“The president has selected an individual without any intelligence experience,” said Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee. “This is the second acting director the president has named to the role since the resignation of Dan Coats, apparently in an effort to sidestep the Senate’s constitutional authority to advise and consent on such critical national security positions.”
Mr Trump last year named John Ratcliffe, a Texas congressman, to succeed Mr Coats, who had angered the president by contradicting the commander-in-chief over US assessments about Russia, Iran and North Korea, and also by criticising remarks Mr Trump made at a news conference with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
Mr Ratcliffe withdrew his nomination amid intense criticism, including from some Republicans, over his lack of experience and amid concerns about the veracity of claims he made on his resume about his national security credentials.
Mr Grenell, who will be the first gay member of the cabinet, has been an outspoken supporter of Mr Trump and his “America First” policy. He will oversee the intelligence community in a role that was created after the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks revealed that there had been dangerous silos in the US intelligence community that had prevented officials from preventing the attacks.
His appointment will place a staunch loyalist at the top of the intelligence community, which has had a complicated relationship with Mr Trump, who at times has referred to his own security officials as the “deep state”.
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