Trump names outspoken ambassador Richard Grenell acting head of intelligence

President Donald Trump on Wednesday named Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, to be the next acting director of national intelligence.

The move was first reported by The New York Times and later confirmed by NBC News.

Grenell, an openly gay former Fox News commentator who is a vocal supporter of the president, would replace Joseph Maguire. Maguire has served as acting director since Dan Coats resigned in July.

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FILED - 14 February 2020, Bavaria, Munich: Richard Grenell, Ambassador of the United States of America to Germany, speaks on the first day of the 56th Munich Security Conference. Grenell becomes the acting intelligence coordinator at the White House. Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa (Photo by Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images)
BELGRADE, SERBIA - JANUARY 24: U.S. envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Richard Grenell speaks during a joint press conference held with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (not seen) following their meeting in Belgrade, Serbia on January 24, 2020. (Photo by Milos Miskov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
BELGRADE, SERBIA - JANUARY 24: U.S. envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Richard Grenell listens during a joint press conference held with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (not seen) following their meeting in Belgrade, Serbia on January 24, 2020. (Photo by Milos Miskov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
08 November 2019, Berlin: Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany. Photo: Kay Nietfeld/dpa (Photo by Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 08: U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell waits for the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for talks with German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer at the Federal Defense Ministry on November 08, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. Pompeo is on a two-day visit to Germany ahead of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
28 June 2019, Berlin: Richard Grenell, American Ambassador to Germany, will attend the German Family Business Day 2019 and give a speech. Photo: Wolfgang Kumm/dpa (Photo by Wolfgang Kumm/picture alliance via Getty Images)
US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell (C) walks to his vehicle after greeting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (2-L) at Tegel airport in Berlin on May 31, 2019. - The US top diplomat is on a European tour that will take him to Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Britain. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP) (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)
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The post is a Cabinet-level position — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence oversees the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies and is the president's principal adviser on intelligence issues.

Trump has been critical of those agencies in the past, tweeting last year that "Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!" after Coats and the heads of the FBI and the CIA testified about worldwide threats before the Senate.

The move got swift pushback on social media. Samantha Power, who was President Barack Obama's ambassador to the United Nations, said in a tweet, "Appointing as @ODNIgov @RichardGrenell, who has politicized every issue he has touched & has contempt for facts, would be a travesty."

Grenell has been a controversial figure in part because of his outspoken views on Twitter. He has come under fire for tweets targeting women, including Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Rachel Maddow and Callista Gingrich.

 

As ambassador to Germany, he has pushed Germany to increase its contributions to NATO, and he launched the administration's global campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality in dozens of nations where it's illegal to be gay.

His hard-nosed style has sometimes raised eyebrows in Europe, as when he said in 2018 that he wanted to "empower" European conservatives who are "experiencing an awakening from the silent majority."

"I think there is a groundswell of conservative policies that are taking hold because of the failed policies of the left," he told Breitbart. "There's no question about that, and it's an exciting time for me."

Grenell, who has a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University, was the longest-serving U.S. spokesman at the United Nations, where he served during President George W. Bush's administration.

Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va, the vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, criticized Grennell's appointment in a statement.

"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," he said. "This is the second acting director the President has named to the role since the resignation of Dan Coats, apparently in an effort to sidestep the Senate’s constitutional authority to advise and consent on such critical national security positions, and flouting the clear intent of Congress when it established the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in 2004. The intelligence community deserves stability and an experienced individual to lead them in a time of massive national and global security challenges."

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