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.
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.
I am pleased to announce that our highly respected Ambassador to Germany, @RichardGrenell, will become the Acting Director of National Intelligence. Rick has represented our Country exceedingly well and I look forward to working with him. I would like to thank Joe Maguire....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2020
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."