KEY POINTS

  • Maguire authorizes briefing to the House Intelligence Committee whose members are told of Russia's ongoing effort in supporting Trump's re-election
  • The briefing destroys Maguire's chance of becoming permanent DNI
  • Trump appoints an avid supporter totally without any intelligence experience to replace Maguire

Acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire lost his shot at holding on to the post for authorizing a classified briefing in which the U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) affirmed Russia is now interfering in U.S. politics to get president Donald Trump re-elected.

Reliable sources cited by The Washington Post said this conclusion made during a briefing February 13 to the House Intelligence Committee on 2020 election security angered Trump. The president said Democrats will weaponize the revelation against him on the campaign trail. In 2017, USIC affirmed Russia intervened in the 2016 presidential election to get Trump elected.

Trump allies argued Trump has been tough on Russia, so such findings may not be true, the New York Times noted.

Trump scolded Maguire the next day, effectively dousing Maguire's hopes of becoming the permanent DNI. He replaced Maguire with Richard Grenell, the current ambassador to Germany on Wednesday. Grenell has no national security experience or credentials whatsoever.

A House intelligence committee official described the briefing as an important update about “the integrity of our upcoming elections.” Sources cited by media said Trump unloaded on Maguire under the impression that Shelby Pierson, the intelligence official that held the briefing, had given the damning information exclusively to Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-CA, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Schiff was also the lead impeachment manager, or prosecutor, during Trump’s Senate trial on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

US President Donald Trump (L, pictured July 2018) has frustrated US intelligence services by refusing to heed them, often listening to rivals like Russian President Vladimir Putin instead US President Donald Trump (L, pictured July 2018) has frustrated US intelligence services by refusing to heed them, often listening to rivals like Russian President Vladimir Putin instead Photo: AFP / Brendan Smialowski

The official cited by media said members on both sides participated, including Rep. Devin Nunes, R-CA, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. This person said the members, "heard the exact same briefing from experts across the intelligence community. No special or separate briefing was provided to one side or to any single member, including the chairman.”

White House officials said Trump’s decision to make Grenell acting DNI, rather than nominate him for the permanent position, reflected concerns he might not win confirmation in the Senate. Grenell tweeted Trump will nominate a permanent DNI “soon” and it won't be him.

Grenell has been widely criticized for his temporary appointment, however. Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Trump had selected someone “without any intelligence experience.” He slammed Trump for not nominating a permanent successor, “apparently in an effort to sidestep the Senate’s constitutional authority to advise and consent on such critical national security positions.”

Susan Hennessey, a fellow in national security law at Brookings Institution and a former attorney at the National Security Agency, said, "This should frighten you. Not just brazen politicization of intelligence, but also someone who is utterly incompetent in an important security role. The guardrails are gone."