Trump taps Richard Grenell as acting head of intelligence

By Kathryn Watson

/ CBS News

President Trump announced he's tapping Richard Grenell, the current U.S. ambassador to Germany, to take over as acting director of national intelligence, as CBS News had previously confirmed he would.

Grenell has been a vocal supporter of the president's. The New York Times first reported the expected move. Mr. Trump made the announcement on Twitter.

"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!"

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Maguire has served in the acting position since Dan Coats left the position last year. Grenell has been the ambassador to Germany since 2018. Grenell has scant experience working in intelligence.

It's unclear if the president will eventually nominate Grenell to the role. Given Grenell's previous Senate confirmation, he can serve as the acting DNI, avoiding a contentious confirmation process in the Senate. 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.

"Joe Maguire is honored to serve as Acting Director of National Intelligence and to lead the women and men of the Intelligence Community until the White House names a new Acting DNI or a nominee is confirmed," ODNI said in a statement. "We refer you to the White House for further questions about the status of the DNI role."

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."

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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 and Olivia Gazis contributed to this report

First published on February 19, 2020 / 7:21 PM

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Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.