In early 2018, Trump nominated Richard Grenell as U.S. Ambassador to Germany. I wrote then that Grenell was unfit for any number of reasons, not the least of which were that he was an aid to John Bolton, that he was a frequent contributor to Fox ‘News’, and that he was an outspoken critic of the Iran nuclear agreement. As if that weren’t sufficient, Grenell had a history of criticizing women, especially those in high-ranking positions. Grenell might never have been confirmed to the ambassadorial position if there had been equity in the Senate, rather than a republican majority Senate led by the unconscionable Mitch McConnell.
But, he was confirmed, and he went to Germany and almost got himself expelled within the first month, after he criticized Germany’s NATO spending, criticized Chancellor Merkel’s immigration policy, and took sides against Merkel, attempting to incite other EU nations to reject her policies. All of which, of course, is unthinkable for an ambassador, but … it’s the era of Trump, and Grenell was hand-picked by Trump. Then, just last year, Grenell was back in the news when he had the unmitigated gall to actually criticize the budget proposals of Germany’s finance minister!
Fast forward to yesterday, when Trump named Grenell to be the acting director of national intelligence overseeing the nation’s 17 spy agencies. Yep, you heard me right, folks. Now, even with ol’ Moscow Mitch keeping a tight rein on the Senate, this is one that would never fly, so … Trump has simply done what he’s done with so many other cabinet positions, and has made him the ‘acting’, or temporary director.
Grenell has little experience in intelligence or in running a large bureaucracy, but he apparently possesses the one and only qualification that Trump values … personal fealty to Trump.
Since Dan Coats’ resignation from the position of Director of National Intelligence last summer, Joseph Maguire has been serving as acting director. There is a 210-day limit for acting cabinet members who have not been approved by the Senate, so the end of Mr. Maguire’s time, March 12th, is quickly approaching. Trump intends Grenell to continue as Ambassador to Germany, while at the same time serving as acting DNI. Hmmm … does this mean that neither of those jobs require full-time attention, that both are only part-time jobs? The two combined are paid in excess of $150,000 annually … seems we’ve been paying some pretty high salaries for ‘part-time’ help, doesn’t it?
On Wednesday, Trump tweeted …
“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 for the wonderful job he has done, and we look forward to working with him closely, perhaps in another capacity within the Administration!”
There was some speculation that Trump intended to nominate Maguire to become the DNI for real, not just acting. But wait … what’s this?
Sometime Wednesday, shortly before announcing Grenell’s temporary appointment, Trump found out that last week, a high-ranking intelligence officer, Shelby Pierson, reported to House lawmakers in a classified hearing that Russia wants to see President Trump reelected, viewing his administration as more favorable to the Kremlin’s interests (really??? What a shocker, eh?), and to that end are already plotting to aid Trump in the upcoming elections.
According to those in the know, Trump went ballistic when he found this out, and angrily confronted Maguire. Trump initially believed, erroneously, that Pierson had given the information only to Representative Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment manager, and guess who provided Trump with that information? None other than the little weasel, and Trump sycophant, Devin Nunes.
Trump angrily asked Maguire why he had to learn of what Pierson had said from Nunes and not from his own aides, and said that Maguire should not have let the Capitol Hill briefing happen — particularly before he received the briefing — and that he should not have learned about it from a congressman. I ask you to think about that one, folks … Trump believes he should control the information that Congress is allowed to receive??? I find this more than a little disturbing. If he would withhold such critical information such as election interference and tampering from Congress, what would he withhold from We the People?
Trump told Maguire and other aides in the Oval Office that he did not believe Russia was interfering to help him or planning to do so, and that the intelligence community was getting “played.” He said that the information would be used against him unfairly and that he could not believe that people were believing such a story again, reflecting his opinion that Russian interference in 2016 was a “hoax” made up by officials with a political agenda. Now, Trump knows that the Russians helped him get elected in 2016 … it has been proven time and again. However, it doesn’t fit in with his agenda, so … it simply cannot be presented as factual.
As acting DNI, Grenell would oversee the intelligence community’s efforts to combat election interference and disinformation, but that is problematic, because Grenell has publicly said that he is very skeptical of the claims that Russia interfered in 2016. How effective, then, will his department be at working to ensure a fair and honest election? Not at all is my best guess, and I think that was Trump’s entire purpose in putting him in this position. At the outside, without Senate confirmation Grenell can only remain in the position of Director until September 17th, approximately a month-and-a-half before the election, but plenty of time to allow or even assist the Russians in their disinformation campaign to help Trump in November.
Trump has instructed aides to identify and remove officials across the government who aren’t defending his interests, and he wants them replaced with loyalists (aka boot-lickers). This, my friends, is only the beginning. Trump is working overtime to ensure that one way or another, We the People are kept in the dark, and he will remain in office by hook or by crook.