Donald Trump appoints loyal intelligence chief

The new director of American intelligence, Richard Grenell, in Berlin, on May 31, 2019.
The new director of American intelligence, Richard Grenell, in Berlin, on May 31, 2019. ODD ANDERSEN / AFP

Donald Trump continued the restructuring of his administration by appointing, Wednesday, February 19, to the head of the direction of the national intelligence a faithful without experience in this field. It’s the US Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell. The latter, however, was appointed on an interim basis, which relieves him of the Senate confirmation exercise. A choice that suggests that the President of the United States is not guaranteed to have the support of all Republican senators.

The position of director of national intelligence, which coordinates all US agencies, including the CIA and the NSA, was previously occupied by another acting officer, Joseph Maguire. The latter had to manage the report of a whistleblower behind the Ukrainian affair and the indictment of Donald Trump, which ended with his acquittal by the Senate on February 5.

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Richard Grenell’s profile did not predispose him to this position. Former political advisor to Republican officials, he was then spokesperson for the United States representation at the United Nations from 2001 to 2008. After working as a consultant, then briefly in the campaign team of Republican candidate Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential election, He was appointed ambassador to Berlin in 2017 after laborious confirmation in the Senate. As with the United Nations and with Mitt Romney, Richard Grenell, who is also openly gay, made his mark in Germany with little diplomatic statements against the Iranian or migration policy of the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Tight relationships

The predecessors of the new Acting Director of National Intelligence were all experts in the field. Joseph Maguire was a former counterterrorist with the Navy. Dan Coats (March 2017-August 2019) sat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. All the other incumbents of the post, created after the 9/11 attacks, had a solid military past.

Donald Trump has cultivated strained relations with the intelligence community since his arrival at the White House. The President of the United States continues to openly deny the findings that attributed the interference to Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. He also defended Ukraine’s involvement in the interference against any evidence, which has been in party behind his indictment.

The appointment of Richard Grenell came on the day of departure of Pentagon number three John Rood. This top official had certified in 2019 that Ukraine had made enough anti-corruption progress to justify the payment by the administration of Donald Trump of the military aid voted by the Congress to help Kiev in its conflict against the separatists supported by Russia . However, the president had frozen this aid, conditioning its release to the opening of investigations targeting opponents of the president. John Rood resigned, saying he was leaving at Trump’s request. He is the fourth official linked to the Ukrainian affair dismissed by the president since his acquittal by the Senate.

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