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Trump taps Richard Grenell as acting head of intelligence

President Trump announced he's tapping Richard Grenell, the current U.S. ambassador to Germany, to take over as acting director of national intelligence. He will replace the office's current acting director, Joseph Maguire.

"I am pleased to announce that our highly respected Ambassador to Germany, @RichardGrenell, will become the Acting Director of National Intelligence," Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday evening. "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!"

An outspoken supporter of the president, Grenell was nominated to his post in Germany in 2017. He previously served as a spokesman at the United Nations during George W. Bush's administration, serving under, among others, then-Ambassador John Bolton.

Maguire has served in the acting position since Dan Coats left the position last year. 

"I want to thank President Trump for the opportunity to serve as the Acting Director of National Intelligence for the last six months," Maguire said in a statement. "It has been an honor to work alongside the men and women of the intelligence community who have an unwavering dedication to our mission and the Nation."

Maguire, a retired admiral and former Navy SEAL, was appointed to the role following the resignation of former Indiana Senator Dan Coats last August. He would have had to be confirmed or replaced by March 11.

During his tenure Maguire mostly avoided public appearances. He testified in September before the House Intelligence Committee about his decision, made after consultation with the Department of Justice and White House counsel, to withhold a whistleblower complaint from Congress. The complaint, written by a CIA employee and later released, fueled the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.  

Under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, a Senate-confirmed political appointee can serve as acting DNI as Maguire has been doing, for a limited term. In asking Grenell, a previously Senate-confirmed political appointee, to serve in an acting capacity, the White House will avoid a potentially messy confirmation battle over his nomination. Grenell's own confirmation was rocky; he was ultimately confirmed by a 56-42 vote margin.

Mr. Trump, who has frequently criticized the intelligence community's work and leadership, has struggled to find a director of national intelligence who suits him. 

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner voiced concern over the president's decision.

"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," Warner said. "This is the second acting director the president has named to the role since the resignation of Dan Coats this summer, apparently in an effort to sidestep the Senate's constitutional obligation 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."

The ambassador has a communications style similar to the president's, frequently taking to Twitter to attack news outlets and journalists he believes are covering things unfairly. 

— Kristin Brown contributed to this report

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