Trump officially makes Richard Grenell acting intelligence chief

Trump officially makes Richard Grenell acting intelligence chief
© Getty

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump orders US troops back to active duty for coronavirus response Trump asserts power to decide info inspector general for stimulus gives Congress Fighting a virus with the wrong tools MORE on Thursday formally designated Richard Grenell as acting director of national intelligence, making official a move that has drawn intense scrutiny from Democrats.

"[Grenell] is committed to a non-political, non-partisan approach as head of the Intelligence Community, on which our safety and security depend," White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamUK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus White House press secretary to return to work after negative virus test Trump signs executive order to prevent price gouging, hoarding of medical supplies MORE said in a statement. "The President has every confidence that Ambassador Grenell will perform his new duties with distinction."

Grenell has served as U.S. ambassador to Germany since April 2018. He will retain that role, given he is only leading the intelligence community on an acting basis.


Grenell tweeted Thursday that he would not be the nominee for the full-time role and that Trump would announce the choice "sometime soon." But the president has stocked his administration with acting officials, saying he prefers the flexibility of a temporary agency leader even amid concerns about government-wide instability.

Trump first announced Wednesday via Twitter that he would give the intelligence job to Grenell, making him the first openly gay man to serve in the president's Cabinet.


“Rick has represented our Country exceedingly well and I look forward to working with him," Trump tweeted.

Grenell, a fierce loyalist of the president, has earned plaudits from some of Trump's close allies who expressed confidence in his abilities and experience.

"Ric has a proven track record of fighting for our country, and now, he will work every day to make sure Americans are safe," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyLysol, disinfecting wipes and face masks mark coronavirus vote in House Trump signs T coronavirus relief package Pelosi not invited by Trump to White House coronavirus relief bill's signing MORE (R-Calif.) tweeted.

But Democrats and some career officials have raised concerns about the interim appointment, casting doubt on Grenell's qualifications to lead an intelligence agency and pointing to his tendency to weigh in on political issues while serving as ambassador, such as when he said he wanted to empower conservatives in Europe.

"It appears the President has selected an individual *without any intelligence experience* to serve as the leader of the nation’s intelligence community in an acting capacity," Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: Coronavirus deal includes funds for mail-in voting | Twitter pulled into fight over virus disinformation | State AGs target price gouging | Apple to donate 10M masks Senator sounds alarm on cyber threats to internet connectivity during coronavirus crisis Senator calls for cybersecurity review at health agencies after hacking incident MORE (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. 

"The intelligence community deserves stability and an experienced individual to lead them in a time of massive national and global security challenges," he added.

Grenell will take over an agency long distrusted by Trump. The president has previously cast doubt on the determination that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election and has railed against the intelligence community after a whistleblower complaint sparked an impeachment inquiry last year.

Updated at 10:30 a.m.