NSA ‘Moving Forward’ With Hiring Michael Ellis as Top Lawyer: Spokesperson

January 18, 2021 Updated: January 18, 2021

The National Security Agency (NSA) is moving to place a former Republican political operative, Michael Ellis, as its top lawyer, according to a spokesperson.

“Mr. Ellis accepted his final job offer yesterday afternoon,” an NSA spokesperson told numerous news outlets on Jan. 17 in confirming the development. “NSA is moving forward with his employment.”

The NSA and Department of Defense (DOD) didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

“The General Counsel of the Department of Defense is the sole selection authority for the position of General Counsel of the National Security Agency—as well as all other senior career DOD General Counsel positions,” according to a statement from the Department of Defense to The Hill, CNN, the Washington Examiner, and other outlets. “The Director of the NSA does not select or approve of candidates for the position of the NSA General Counsel.

“Once a candidate is selected through the merit system, given an offer and meets the requirements to be entered into the position, if that entry does not happen, it exposes the Department, Agency, and senior leadership to claims for a violation of the merit system principles and processes that are designed to protect the participants in such selections,” the DOD statement added.

“To be clear, congressional or media interest in a particular hiring action are not justification under the merit system principles and process to delay placing a selected qualified individual in a position.”

When Ellis’s selection was announced in November 2020, Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) requested that the DOD’s inspector general conduct a review.

“The combination of timing, comparative lack of experience of the candidate, the reported qualifications of the other finalists, and press accounts of White House involvement create a perception that political influence or considerations may have played an undue role in a merit-based civil service selection process,” the senators wrote in a letter at the time.

Ellis joined the White House in 2017 and later became an attorney for the National Security Council in 2019. Some news outlets described him as a “loyalist” to President Donald Trump.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, says he opposes the NSA’s hiring of Ellis as its top lawyer. He told CBS News on Jan. 17 that the move is part of the Trump administration’s “effort to embed people in the civil service who are political and partisan actors.”