Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is requesting the Justice Department investigate whether acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Richard Grenell failed to disclose previous work for foreign entities.
Schumer on Wednesday released a letter to John Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security, asking that he “immediately” open an investigation into reports that Grenell did not disclose the work, a potential violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
“If the reports regarding the nature of Mr. Grenell’s undisclosed work with foreign entities are accurate, he may be subject to potential civil and criminal liability as well as vulnerable to blackmail in his new position in the Intelligence Community,” Schumer wrote.
The New York Democrat is asking the Justice Department to determine whether Grenell violated federal law and, if so, refer him for “enforcement action consistent with Justice Department policies and without regard to any political considerations.”
“Any illegal activity would obviously disqualify him from serving as the Director of National Intelligence or in any other position of public trust,” Schumer added.
this week that before joining the Trump administration Grenell’s company earned more than $100,000 from a foundation tied to the Hungarian government.
ProPublica also reported
that Grenell, in 2016, wrote articles defending Vladimir Plahotniuc, a Moldovan politician, but did not register under FARA. Plahotniuc was sanctioned by the U.S. government last month.
Craig Engle, an attorney with the law firm Arent Fox LLP who told ProPublica he was responding on Grenell’s behalf, said Grenell was not required to register under FARA “because he was not working at the direction of a foreign power.”
President Trump last week tapped Grenell to take over for Joseph Maguire as acting DNI, prompting fierce attacks from Democrats and other critics who argue that his appointment was based solely on loyalty and not experience in intelligence matters. Grenell, a vocal Trump supporter, previously served as a spokesman for the United Nations.
Schumer, in his letter, also questioned whether Grenell misled the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing to be ambassador to Germany about whether he was paid for the op-eds.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) asked Grenell
as part of written questions if he was paid for writing the opinion pieces, including those relating to Moldova. Grenell said in his written response that he did not receive any compensation for the work and that the op-eds were not written at the direction of someone else.
“I did not receive any compensation for that work. I believe strongly in confronting threats to democracy, and all of those views were my own opinion,” Grenell wrote in response to Cardin’s question.