Trump Names Grenell as Director of Intelligence

President Trump announced on Wednesday he has named Richard Grenell, who was the highest-ranking openly gay member of his administration, as acting director of intelligence.

The move puts Grenell — now the U.S. Ambassador to Germany — in charge of overseeing U.S. intelligence agencies and advising Trump and the national security adviser on measures related to national security.

Grenell arguably will be the most senior openly gay official of any administration in U.S. history, or the first openly gay Cabinet member, although as an appointee in an acting role, his job would technically be temporary and wouldn’t require Senate approval, so his claim to that distinction is dubious.

(UPDATE: Although Trump has a predilection for naming appointees on an “acting” basis even for permanent roles, Grenell confirmed on Thursday his appointment would, in fact, be temporary.)

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, took issue with Grenell in a statement, saying Trump’s pick lacks experience and sidesteps the confirmation process.

“The intelligence community deserves stability and an experienced individual to lead them in a time of massive national and global security challenges,” Warner said. “And at a time when the integrity and independence of the Department of Justice has been called into grave question, now more than ever our country needs a Senate-confirmed intelligence director who will provide the best intelligence and analysis, regardless of whether or not it’s expedient for the president who has appointed him.”

Angering many in Germany, Grenell has built a reputation for his combative style as a diplomat. Just this week, Grenell singled out in a series of three tweets targeted European politicians for complaining about the Trump’s administration’s approaches to NATO and the European Union.

The appointment of Grenell, a Trump loyalist, would be a change from former DNI director Dan Coats, who had a frosty relationship with Trump.

Coats, for example, went on the record to contradict Trump after a widely panned performance in 2018 during a joint news conference with Russian Vladimir Putin. After a meeting with Putin, Trump undermined assessments Russia interfered in the 2016 election, but later recanted. Coats stepped down from the role in the months that followed.

Highly critical of the decision to name Grenell as head of intelligence was Samantha Power, who served as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. during the Obama administration.

In his capacity as U.S. ambassador to Germany, Grenell has spearheaded an initiative to decriminalize homosexuality in the more than 70 countries around the world where it remains illegal. Earlier this year, he held an event at the United Nations on the initiative and named each of those countries, although other human rights groups in attendance were dubious about the Trump administration’s initiative.

Grenell, who had concurrently served as U.S. envoy for Serbia-Kosovo peace negotiations, is also credited with helping to negotiate with Kosovo President Hashim Thaci the first steps in the creation of a presidential commission on LGBTQ rights.

It remains to be seen what the state of the global initiative to decriminalize will be in the aftermath of Grenell’s appointment as head of U.S. intelligence.

Closely tied to Grenell is Log Cabin Republicans, which praised news Grenell would be appointed to the senior role on Twitter.

Trump reportedly has an affinity for Grenell, whose name has repeatedly come up in news reports as a possible picks for more senior roles in the administration. Grenell reportedly was on the short list for Trump’s choices as the next national security adviser and secretary of state.

UPDATE: Annise Parker, CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, issued a statement Friday on Grenell’s appointment, dubbing him the highest-ranking openly LGBTQ presidential appointee in U.S. history.

“A little over sixty-five years ago, President Eisenhower signed an executive order barring LGBTQ people from serving in the federal government, resulting in the dismissal of hundreds of dedicated LGBTQ employees solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Parker said. “The ‘lavender scare’ originated in the idea that LGBTQ people were a national security risk – and that ludicrous notion persisted well into the 1990s. For an openly LGBTQ person to be appointed to the most important intelligence position in the U.S. government exemplifies how far we’ve come.”

Parker also pointed out the anti-LGBTQ policies of the Trump administration and urged Grenell to use his newfound influence to call them out.

“Acting Director Grenell has remained loyal to Trump throughout his ambassadorship, and now is the time to cash-in and use that influence to confront the administration on its anti-LGBTQ policies,” Parker said. “Representation in government is invaluable when people speak out, take on discriminatory voices and advocate for change. It takes courage – especially in an administration stocked with anti-LGBTQ activists – but we hope Grenell proves up to the challenge. If Trump believes an openly LGBTQ person can lead our national security apparatus, one would think Trump should also support that person’s right to live free of discrimination in the country he serves.”

Story courtesy of the Washington Blade.