Trump Names Richard Grenell as Acting DNI, Replacing Joseph Maguire

February 19, 2020 Updated: February 28, 2020
FONT BFONT SText size

President Trump on late Wednesday said Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, will be the acting director of national intelligence (DNI), replacing Joseph Maguire.

Trump in a tweet called Grenell “highly respected.”

“Rick has represented our Country exceedingly well and I look forward to working with him,” Trump wrote.

“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!” he added.

The post of director of national intelligence, which was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, oversees the 17 U.S. civilian and military intelligence agencies including the CIA.

Maguire has been acting national intelligence director since Aug. 16, 2019.

In a statement, Maguire expressed his gratitude to Trump, calling the post “the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Maguire said he’d keep his position until Grenell assumes the role, adding that he looks forward “to the next challenge.”

It was unclear if Maguire would return to the National Counterterrorism Center, which he started leading in December 2019. The center is overseen by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). Maguire assumed the post after retiring from the Navy. His 36-year career included leading the Naval Special Warfare Command.

Epoch Times Photo
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testifies before the House Select Committee on Intelligence in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 26, 2019. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Grenell has been the U.S. ambassador to Germany since 2018. Before that, he was the U.S. spokesman at the United Nations in the George W. Bush administration, including under then-Ambassador John Bolton.

Trump named Grenell acting national intelligence director, meaning he would not have to be confirmed by the Senate.

On Twitter on Thursday, Grenell noted that Trump would not nominate him permanently to the national intelligence director position, writing: “[t]he President will announce the Nominee (not me) sometime soon.”

The president’s choice for the permanent job must be confirmed by the Senate.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, criticized the move. In a Twitter post, Warner wrote that he felt Trump “has selected an individual *without any intelligence experience* to serve as the leader of the nation’s intelligence community in an acting capacity.”

But others praised the announcement, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Grenell will “do a great job” in his new position, Paul said in a statement. Trump, he said, “should appoint those who agree with his policies including less government. Ric will deliver!”

Trump named Maguire to the position on Aug. 8, 2019. The announcement came just five days after Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) removed himself from consideration amid questions surrounding the congressman’s alleged lack of experience.

Maguire became acting director on the same day former National Intelligence Director Dan Coats’ resignation took effect. It was also the same day that deputy national intelligence director Sue Gordon resigned. She said in a note to Trump that stepping down was not her “preference,” but added: “You should have your team.”

Zachary Stieber, the Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.

This article has been updated to include a statement from Grenell.

Follow Mimi on Twitter: @MimiNguyenLy