National intelligence director to resign

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair is resigning.

Blair will formally offer his resignation Friday, according to a U.S. official who said the administration has been interviewing several "strong" candidates to replace him.

Blair announced his resignation in a note to his staff Thursday evening.

"It is with deep regret that I informed the President today that I will step down as Director of National Intelligence effective Friday, May 28th," the note said.

Blair said he had been honored to lead the intelligence community, which he said over the last 16 months has become more integrated, agile and representative of American values.

In a statement, Obama thanked Blair for his service to the country. Under Blair's leadership, Obama said the "intelligence community had performed admirably and effectively at a time of great challenge to our security, and I have valued his sense of purpose and patriotism."

Republicans on the Senate and House Intelligence panels blamed the Obama administration for Blair’s resignation.

In harshly-worded releases, both Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and Rep. Pete Hoesktra (R-Mich.) praised Blair’s tenure and criticized key figures in the Obama administration for sidelining him.

"DNI Blair deserves this nation's thanks for his long service to our country,” Bond, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. “It must have been challenging to be forced on the sidelines by the attorney general but still catch all the blame for failings."

Earlier this year, Bond joined a chorus of conservatives calling for Attorney General Eric Holder to resign over his decisions on terrorism cases. Several Republicans, including Bond and Hoesktra, have criticized the administration’s decision to charge the Christmas Day attempted airline bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in federal court as a criminal rather than placing him in military custody for interrogation, as well as Holder’s initial announcement that the five alleged 9/11 plotters would be tried in New York City federal court.

Blair has been at the helm of the office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees coordination among the nation's 16 intelligence agencies, since shortly after Obama took office.

Hoekstra called Blair’s decision to resign “a disturbing sign.”

“That a man who has willingly dedicated himself to the cause of our nation’s freedom would rather step down than continue to serve as America’s top intelligence officer is a disturbing sign of the stranglehold the Obama White House has placed on America’s intelligence agencies,” Hoekstra said. “Clearly, and understandably, Director Blair was frustrated by the White House’s micromanagement and sidelining of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on national security issues.”

Hoekstra also accused Obama administration officials of politicizing national security and failing to give Blair enough authority and political backing to do his job.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee and a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Blair was a professional who was "good to work with," but was made a "scapegoat" by the White House.

"It is unfortunate that the Obama Administration did not allow him to do his job and tried to make him the scapegoat for the Administration’s intelligence failures," King said in a statement. "The problem was not with Dennis Blair, but with the White House itself, which, under John Brennan, attempts to control intelligence policy beyond the scope of congressional oversight while withholding necessary information from Congress."

Blair met with the president Thursday in the Oval Office where he offered — and the president said he would accept — his resignation, according to a report by ABC News. 

Congressional Republicans, said Hoekstra, will be closely watching who Obama names as a successor. He also lamented the decision to let Blair take the fall for national security failings.

“Right now, the Obama administration’s national security apparatus is broken, dysfunctional and in disarray,” he said. “Dennis Blair was the one person you could count on for rationality."

This story was posted at 5:40 and updated at 8:15 p.m.