Donald Trump makes Rick Grenell director of national intelligence and first secretary of the gay cabinet
Donald Trump named one of his closest loyalists, ambassador to Germany, Rick Grenell, as acting director of the national intelligence service Wednesday.
The appointment will make history with Grenell, 53, and become the first openly gay secretary of the cabinet.
It puts a ragged pro-Trump figure at the head of the intelligence community, but may not be a permanent move – Grenell replaces an acting director, Joseph Maguire, and there was no clarity about whether the ambassador would be formally nominated for the role .
Maguire had until March 12 to continue acting as DNI, a role he played when Dan Coats retired as the last permanent leader of the intelligence community.
Close relationship: Raising Rick Grenell as acting director of national security and previously tweeted photos of the Oval Office with Donald Trump
Alliance: Rick Grenell is also close to Mike Pompeo and greeted him last week in Munich for the security stop in Munich, where the state secretary was present
Main problem: Grenell used his Twitter feed to send a warning to the UK after giving Huawei the green light to build part of his 5G mobile phone network in violation of US blocking requirements
Maguire and the wider intelligence community were driven to the center of the news agenda by the whistleblower letter in which Trump was accused of misconduct in his relations with Ukraine.
Grenell is eligible to become acting director because he already has a role confirmed by the Senate, voted through 56-42, and was sworn in by Mike Pence with his partner Matt Lashey by his side, and became the highest rank gay official in a republican administration.
Grenell has never worked in the intelligence community before, but was also driven as a possible director of national security at the White House, a job that went to Robert O’Brien after John Bolton’s sudden departure.
He has already spoken about one intelligence problem and says it is necessary to prevent Huawei from having access to 5G networks for mobile phones in the West.
He used Twitter to give the United Kingdom a direct warning this week that it is facing losing access to the US intelligence service – which he will now control – after Prime Minister Boris Johnson allowed Huawei to join the 5G network of the country
The move adds a seasoned veteran in foreign policy with sharp elbows to the inner circle of Trump.
Although Grenell’s reputation is sometimes abrasive, he has been fairly loyal to Trump at a time when the president remains skeptical about the intelligence community.
Trump had a tense relationship with Coats, who had endorsed the American intelligence community’s assessment that Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election with the aim of promoting Trump over his democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Trump has also objected to US intelligence community analyzes of major issues – from the Iranian nuclear program to North Korea – that clashed with his own assessments, tweeted to intelligence chiefs in January 2019 that they had to “go back to school” and be “naive” for underestimating Iran’s danger.
Family business: Don Jr. spoke at a farewell party for Rick Grenell in Manhattan when he became ambassador to Germany
Also present: Bill O’Reilly, the former Fox News host who left in the midst of a scandal about payouts to women, was a guest at Rick Grenell’s farewell party
Grenell has also led the American opposition to Nord Stream 2, a pipeline designed to increase the flow of natural gas from Russia to Germany.
The US is opposed on strategic grounds and has used sanctions to derail the project.
And the move comes at a time when the Justice Department has a prosecutor – John Durham – who is conducting a criminal investigation into the origin of the Trump-Russia probe.
The focus of the probe has been reported on the analysis that led to the conclusion that Russia was involved in the elections in favor of Trump.
It has apparently also focused on the actions of Obama-appointed intelligence officers John Brennan, the CIA director, and James Clapper, the director of the national intelligence service, both of which have often been Trump goals and are frank critics of the president.
Grenell has a long history in republican circles.
He previously served as a United Nations spokesperson for the George W. Bush administration, including under ambassador John Bolton.
In recent years, he has developed friendships with the Trump family and the inner circle, especially with Don Jr., who organized a “farewell party” for him when he was confirmed as an ambassador to Germany.
Others at the party included Bill O’Reilly, the former Fox News host who stays close to Trump despite leaving Fox News amid a scandal over massive payouts to women accusing him of sexual misconduct.