Richard Grenell: Trump appoints first openly gay cabinet member to head US intelligence

Former US ambassador to Germany is an outspoken critic of Huawei

Phil Thomas
New York
Thursday 20 February 2020 01:37 GMT
US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell fawns over Trump: 'I have longed to work for a president like him'

Donald Trump has appointed Richard Grenell to be the new acting director of national intelligence. Mr Grenell, formerly the US ambassador to Germany, is believed to be the first openly gay cabinet member.

Mr Grenell replaces former US Navy admiral Joseph Maguire, who has been acting director since Dan Coats stepped down from the role in August.

Mr Trump tweeted: "I am pleased to announce that our highly respected Ambassador to Germany, @RichardGrenell, will become the Acting Director of National Intelligence. Rick has represented our Country exceedingly well and I look forward to working with him. I would like to thank Joe Maguire for the wonderful job he has done, and we look forward to working with him closely, perhaps in another capacity within the Administration!"

As well as being an enthusiastic supporter of the president, Mr Grenell is an outspoken critic of the Chinese telecoms company Huawei and has urged Germany not to do business with it.

The Trump administration has warned that Western allies – such as the UK – could be cut out of some intelligence-sharing if it allows Huawei to run any part of its 5G network. Boris Johnson is currently planning to allow the firm to play a role in developing 5G with British networks.

As the previous acting chief, Mr Maguire's term was due to end on 12 March. Mr Trump was able to choose any Senate-approved official to replace him.

Mr Maguire hit the headlines in September, soon after his appointment, when he gave evidence to Congress about claims by a whistleblower that Mr Trump had behaved inappropriately during a phone call to his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, on 25 July – a phone call that ultimately led to the president being impeached for abuse of power and obstruction by the House but then acquitted by his Republican allies in the Senate.

Mr Grenell, who has a longtime partner, Matt Lashey, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2013 and announced that he was in remission following a course of chemotherapy later that year.

On his Twitter page he describes himself as "stronger after cancer", adding "my dog runs my life" and describing himself as an "imperfect follower of Christ".

The 53-year-old is a former national security spokesman for Utah senator Mitt Romney, who provoked Mr Trump's fury when he became the only Republican to vote for his conviction on impeachment charges in the Senate.

As ambassador to Germany, Mr Grenell was not afraid to rock the boat, openly criticising Angela Merkel's immigration policies and calling for the election of more conservatives.

A profile of him in the German news magazine Der Spiegel last year painted an unflattering image, saying a majority of 30 sources it had spoken to "describe Grenell as a vain, narcissistic person who dishes out aggressively, but can barely handle criticism. His brash demeanor, some claim, hides a deep insecurity, and they say he thirsts for the approval of others".

It added: "They also say Grenell knows little about Germany and Europe, that he ignores most of the dossiers his colleagues at the embassy write for him, and that his knowledge of the subject matter is superficial."

As acting director of US intelligence he will be responsible for the nation's 17 intelligence agencies, which include the CIA, a regular target of Mr Trump's ire.

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