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Trump Taps Richard Grenell as Acting Intelligence Head

Richard Grenell, at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 18, 2019. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

President Trump announced Wednesday that he is recalling the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, to name him the acting director of national intelligence, confirming a New York Times report.

Grenell, an outspoken Trump ally, will replace Joseph Maguire, who took over as acting DNI after Dan Coats, the former Republican senator from Indiana, resigned in August. Maguire is required to give up the role before March 12, after which the president can appoint any Senate-confirmed official to head the U.S. intelligence agencies.

Grenell will only be able to serve three months as acting director, but does not have to be confirmed by the Senate for the temporary role, having already been confirmed as ambassador. It’s unclear if Trump would move to nominate him for the official role, which would require another confirmation process.

The president has tried to appoint loyalists to the position in the past, having initially chosen Representative John Ratcliffe (R., Texas) to take the position last year, only to revoke the nomination after it became clear Ratcliffe would face resistance and a drawn-out confirmation process.

Grenell played an instrumental role in getting Ecuador to hand over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to British authorities for extradition, after promising that Assange would not face the death penalty in the U.S. Assange’s lawyers claimed in extradition court on Wednesday that he was offered a pardon by Trump through former Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher in exchange for stating that Russia did not hack the Democratic National Committee. Assange had stated previously that Russia was not behind the DNC hack, as reported widely.

Rohrabacher later denied the allegations, saying instead that Assange had proposed the deal to him, which he relayed to then-White House chief-of-staff General John Kelly, and that he had never spoken with Trump about pardoning Assange before their meeting in 2017.

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