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Trump Names Counterterrorism Chief as Acting Director of National Intelligence

Thursday, 08 August 2019 08:38 PM

President Donald Trump said on Thursday that Joseph Maguire, the current chief of the National Counterterrorism Center, will become the acting director of national intelligence.

Trump said in a tweet that Maguire will take over the post on Aug. 15, when Dan Coats, the current director of the agency overseeing civilian and military intelligence, steps down.

"Admiral Maguire has a long and distinguished career in the military, retiring from the U.S. Navy in 2010," Trump said on Twitter.

Maguire has led the National Counterterrorism Center since December. He retired from the Navy after a 36-year career that included leading the Naval Special Warfare Command.

Earlier on Thursday, the agency's No. 2 official, Sue Gordon, resigned. She said in her resignation letter to Trump: "Know that our people are our strength, and they will never fail you or the Nation. You are in good hands."

Last week, Trump dropped his first choice to replace Coats, U.S. Representative John Ratcliffe, after questions arose about the Republican congressman's lack of experience and possible exaggerations in his resume.

It is not clear what prompted the resignation of Gordon, a career intelligence official who had the backing of current and former officials because of her deep experience.

"Sue Gordon's retirement is a significant loss for our Intelligence Community," the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, said in a statement.

Trump had a strained relationship with Coats, who endorsed the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election with the objective of promoting Trump over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Trump also has objected to U.S. intelligence community analyzes of major issues - from Iran's nuclear program to North Korea - that have clashed with his own assessments.

Under the law, Trump needs to name a new acting director from the senior staff of the agency, known as the ODNI. The National Counterterrorism Center is part of ODNI.

His choice for the permanent job must be confirmed by the Senate.

Among the potential candidates for permanent director are Republican congressmen Mike McCaul and Devin Nunes, and U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Pete Hoekstra, according to administration officials and media reports. He has also recently spoken with Fred Fleitz, a former chief of staff for the National Security Council.

Several Trump allies outside the White House had urged the president to remove Gordon, a career intelligence officer, describing her as too close to former CIA Director John Brennan. Brennan has publicly criticized Trump’s leadership, and the president in turn has called him “the worst CIA director in our country’s history.”

Trump had told reporters Friday that he liked Gordon “very much” and said he might appoint her acting director.

But after House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, praised Gordon last month, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, “If Adam Schiff wants her in there, the rumors about her being besties with Brennan and the rest of the clown cadre must be 100% true.”

On Thursday night, Schiff released a statement Thursday calling the retirements of two top intelligence officials a "devastating loss."

"The retirements of Dan Coats and Sue Gordon represent a devastating loss to the Intelligence Community, and the men and women who serve in it," Schiff said. "Gordon brought decades of experience and encyclopedic knowledge of the agencies to bear, and her absence will leave a great void."

"These losses of leadership, coupled with a president determined to weed out anyone who may dare disagree, represent one of the most challenging moments for the Intelligence Community," he added. "It will be up to the Congress to ensure that the Intelligence Community continues to provide independent analysis and judgement to policy makers, and always speak truth to power."

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, echoed Schiff's sentiments, calling Gordon's departure a "real loss to our intelligence community."

"In more than 30 years of service to our nation, Sue Gordon ​has demonstrated herself to be a patriot and a consummate professional, eventually becoming the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and someone who garnered tremendous respect from both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill​," Warner said in a statement.

Warner also accused President Trump of pushing out Gordon and Coats.

"In pushing out two dedicated public servants in as many weeks, once again the President has shown that he has no problem prioritizing his political ego even if it comes at the expense of our national security," he said.

Trump has indicated he wanted a political loyalist to take charge of the nation’s intelligence community, regarded by some of the president’s allies and supporters as a “deep state” intent on undermining him. Attorney General William Barr has opened an investigation of what he has said was “spying” on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“We need somebody strong that can really rein it in,” Trump said last month. “Because as I think you’ve all learned, the intelligence agencies have run amok.”

Gordon’s departure may heighten concern among some lawmakers of both parties that the intelligence agencies are increasingly vulnerable to political interference.

 

© 2019 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

   
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President Donald Trump on Thursday named Joseph Maguire, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, as the acting director of national intelligence.Trump said on Twitter that Maguire will assume the post on Aug. 15....
Joseph Maguire, acting, director, national intelligence
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Thursday, 08 August 2019 08:38 PM
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