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Trump Names Richard Grenell Acting Director Of National Intelligence


There has been another shakeup tonight with President Trump's national security team. The president tweeted this evening that he's replacing his acting director of national intelligence with another official who will also serve in an acting capacity. The man who's been in the job since last August, Joseph Maguire, is out. And Richard Grenell, who's been the U.S. ambassador to Germany, is in. NPR's Greg Myre joins us with the latest on this breaking story.

Hi, Greg.


SHAPIRO: Why did Trump have to make this choice?

MYRE: Well, because Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, could only stay in this job about seven months in that capacity, and so his time was going to be up on March 11. And therefore, Trump's hand was forced. And as we've seen many, many times, the president likes some acting or temporary officials so that he can have them come and go very quickly.

SHAPIRO: And they don't have to get confirmed by the Senate.

MYRE: That's correct. I mean, without getting too technical, both Maguire and now Richard Grenell can serve in an acting capacity because they've been confirmed by the Senate for other jobs. But to be - to hold this job permanently, they would need permanent - they would need Senate confirmation specifically for this job.

SHAPIRO: Tell us a little bit more about Maguire's time in the role - seems like he never really bonded with President Trump.

MYRE: Yeah, he really didn't. I mean, he was only there a month last August and September when the Ukraine whistleblower case came up, and Maguire sort of got caught in the middle. At first, he kind of tried to block it from going to Congress. But then when he testified, he said, I support the integrity of the whistleblower. He did the right thing. He followed the law, so the Democrats weren't terribly happy with what he had done to kind of block it. Trump wasn't particularly happy with the fact that he let it go through, and there doesn't seem like there ever was much of a bond between Trump and Maguire.

SHAPIRO: So tonight, Trump names Ambassador Richard Grenell. Tell us about him.

MYRE: Right, so Richard Grenell has been the ambassador to Germany for the past couple years. Much of his career, he was an adviser to Republicans, Republican politicians or Republican operatives. His other diplomatic experience was - he served as a spokesman for the U.S. to the United Nations during a George W. Bush presidency. But he's best known, really, as sort of this Trump loyalist and for being not the most diplomatic of diplomats. He very vociferously called for more NATO spending when he was in Europe, sort of angering some of the European partners. He's been a critic of European countries who use the Chinese telecom Huawei, so he hasn't shied away from sort of poking European countries when he served as an ambassador to Germany.

SHAPIRO: And what is the criticism of Grenell?

MYRE: Well, what you're hearing already from Democrats is that he has not worked in the intelligence community, hasn't really had much top-level executive experience. And, again, as a reminder the director of national intelligence oversees 17 intelligence agencies. The job has been a little fuzzy at times in the past. But with Trump's approach, his sort of freewheeling style, there's been the argument that you do need a very steady hand at the head of the intelligence community. Top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee Mark Warner immediately came out and was very, very critical of this choice.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Greg Myre on news that President Trump tonight has said that Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany, will be the new acting director of national intelligence.

Thanks a lot, Greg.

MYRE: My pleasure, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.