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Politics Trump's Intel moves spark Democratic fury

19:30  23 february  2020
19:30  23 february  2020 Source:   thehill.com

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Trump went on to recycle an argument he' s made in the past — that Russian President Vladimir Putin would rather see a Democrat in the White House Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden expressed doubt that Grenell meets the DNI’ s basic job requirements for expertise in intelligence — even if he’ s

President Donald Trump appoints US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell as the acting head of intel agencies, making him first openly gay cabinet secretary in history.

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Richard Grenell, Aleksandar Vučić are posing for a picture: Trump's Intel moves spark Democratic fury © Getty Images Trump's Intel moves spark Democratic fury

Trump reportedly moved to oust acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire after a senior DNI official briefed the House Intelligence Committee about Russian efforts to aid his reelection.

The president is said to have viewed the briefing as an act of disloyalty, in part because it involved sharing information with a House panel led by one of his political foes, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). He also reportedly said the briefing should not have occurred, while denying the analysis by intelligence officials and claiming the intelligence community is being "played."

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"We count on the intelligence community to inform Congress of any threat of foreign interference in our elections," Schiff tweeted after news of Maguire's departure. "If reports are true and the President is interfering with that, he is again jeopardizing our efforts to stop foreign meddling. Exactly as we warned he would do."

Rather than wait until Maguire's acting role expired next month, Trump on Thursday tapped a longtime loyalist, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, to serve as his new interim DNI chief before he nominates a permanent replacement.

That move prompted renewed warnings from Democrats that Trump is willing to accept the help of foreign nations to benefit his reelection campaign - a claim that was central to their impeachment effort.

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The Coming Democratic Fury . House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, speak to the media outside the White Trump will resist these attempts and tweet like never before. The battle lines will be drawn quickly and camps will be formed and re-formed.

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday condemned Trump's DNI pick, comparing his lack of experience to her being asked to perform brain surgery.

"It would be like sending me in for brain surgery, to do brain surgery on somebody. What?! Just doesn't know the territory. And it's very important territory. So what the president did is dangerous," Pelosi said during a press conference in Houston.

The Washington Post first reported Trump's motivations for removing Maguire, who was previously seen as the likely choice to lead the intelligence community. The New York Times later reported that the fallout was tied to the House briefing led by DNI official Shelby Pierson.

Additionally, the House briefing is said to have turned contentious, with the president's GOP allies requesting Pierson provide evidence for the intelligence community's findings. It is unclear how Pierson responded.

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But Trump ’ s early moves frustrate an already rocky relationship with Washington. There are now some 6,000 U.S. forces inside Iraq, U.S. troops have moved closer to frontline fighting and American special forces have conducted greater numbers of raids into IS-held territory aimed at taking out key

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Some Republicans also reportedly accused representatives from other intelligence agencies of seeking to hurt Trump's reelection chances.

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), a senior member of the panel, declined to discuss the nature of the classified briefing but said if such claims about Russian interference were made, they would need to be supported.

"If briefers were to make such a controversial and sensitive comment, they need to be prepared to defend it," Stewart told The Hill on Friday.

Stewart is believed to be a contender for the permanent DNI role, a source confirmed to The Hill.

Trump on Friday tweeted that the decision for a permanent replacement will be made "within the next few weeks," adding that there are "four great candidates are under consideration" for the DNI role. He did not name the candidates.

The permanent appointee, if confirmed by the Senate, will take over the role previously held by Dan Coats. Trump's initial pick - Texas GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe - withdrew from consideration in August after a barrage of media scrutiny raised questions about his previous work experience.

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While Democrats have long argued that Trump is dismissive of credible U.S. intelligence, they're now voicing concern that the president is moving to replace career officials with loyalists, noting that Grenell is a staunch Trump defender known for making controversial and divisive comments. Maguire, meanwhile, is a former Navy SEAL who had a long military career.

"Richard Grenell is basically an internet troll. He's a loyalist to the president and he is not qualified to hold this position even for a single day," Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) told MSNBC. "The president has installed on a temporary basis someone that is loyal to him. We need someone that is loyal to our country."

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee - the first hurdle for Trump's eventual permanent DNI chief - slammed Grenell on Thursday.

"It appears 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," Sen. Mark Warner (Va.) said in a statement.

The president's allies, however, praised Grenell, who previously served as a United Nations spokesman and political appointee.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in a tweet said Grenell has "a proven track record" of fighting for the U.S.

Pelosi blasts Trump pick: He has shown 'clear disrespect' for intel community

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Grenell's appointment comes as Trump has repeatedly and publicly cast doubt about the intelligence community, claiming there is a "deep state" of officials who are working against him in federal agencies.

From the early days of his administration, Trump has forcefully rebuked the earlier government assessments that Russia sought to help his presidential campaign in 2016 and hurt that of his Democratic rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Former special counsel Robert Mueller's report further supported those findings.

But Trump isn't the only candidate the Kremlin is reportedly seeking to help.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Friday acknowledged that he was briefed by U.S. intelligence officials about Russian attempts to interfere in the 2020 elections, with The Washington Post reporting that Russia has sought to help his presidential campaign.

While only a small handful of members of Congress have been briefed about election security issues, both chambers are expected to be brought up to speed about potential threats in the coming weeks.

Shortly after the Post and Times reports surfaced on Thursday, Pelosi announced that the House would be briefed on March 10, the same day the Senate will receive its briefing.

"American voters should decide American elections - not Vladimir Putin. All Members of Congress should condemn the President's reported efforts to dismiss threats to the integrity of our democracy & to politicize our intel community," Pelosi said in a pair of tweets.

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