Who is America’s new spy chief?
Richard Grenell, the current U.S. ambassador to Germany, is now the acting director of national intelligence after being appointed to the position by President Trump last week. He is an outspoken Trump loyalist with a large conservative following on Twitter and also the first openly gay cabinet member.
Prior to his new role, Grenell was the former spokesman for four U.S. ambassadors to the U.N. during the George W. Bush administration, including John Negroponte, John Danforth, John Bolton and Zalmay Khalilzad.
“Grenell served as the United States spokesman during the world body’s most turbulent time,” the State Department says. “He led communications strategies on issues such as the war on terrorism, peacekeeping operations, the conflict in the Middle East, nuclear proliferation, Israel’s security and the U.N.’s Oil for Food Corruption investigation, to name a few.”
Grenell was appointed in 2004 as a U.N. Security Council alternate representative with full privileges and voting rights, the department adds.
Outside of the U.N., Grenell has been a spokesperson for numerous Republicans formerly in office, including New York Gov. George Pataki, San Diego Mayor Susan Golding, Rep. Mark Sanford (S.C.) and Rep. Dave Camp (Mich.), the former head of the House Ways and Means Committee.
The 53-year-old also worked with Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, on his 2012 presidential bid.
Grenell, a former Fox News contributor, received a bachelor’s degree in government and public administration from Evangel University and a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University.
As the acting director of national intelligence, Grenell is now responsible for overseeing the nation’s 17 spy agencies. Joseph Maguire, the former holder of the post, is departing amid Trump’s push to remove what he calls bad actors at the highest levels of the FBI and other agencies.
Grenell is expected to serve in the position for 90 days, while a permanent replacement will be named by March 11, a U.S. official told the Associated Press.
“Rick has represented our Country exceedingly well and I look forward to working with him,” Trump tweeted last week, adding that “I will be nominating a terrific candidate for the job very soon.”
Grenell’s willingness to stand up to allies and adversaries alike has won him numerous supporters – and some critics.
Earlier this month, just weeks after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps fired numerous ballistic missiles at U.S. troops in Iraq and downed a civilian airliner, Grenell sharply criticized Germany for a planned celebration of the founding of Iran’s Islamic Republic. His reaction was in contrast to the more docile attitude toward Iran from other top Western officials, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Germany has a moral responsibility to say to Iran very firmly and clearly that it is unacceptable to deny basic human rights to your people, or kill protesters in the streets or push gay people off buildings. Celebrating the regime’s ongoing existence sends the opposite message,” Grenell told Fox News.
Grenell also said in 2019 that Germany’s plans for defense spending within NATO were insufficient, echoing his boss, President Trump.
“That the German government would even be considering reducing its already unacceptable commitments is a worrisome signal to Germany’s 28 NATO allies,” Grenell said.
And, Grenell has defended Trump’s tweeting habits, even as Attorney General Bill Barr has said Trump’s posts make it “impossible” for him to do his job at the Justice Department.
“It makes my job so much easier,” Grenell has told Fox News host Neil Cavuto. “We as diplomats have to be at the forefront of trying to solve problems. You don’t want to have a war, you want to avoid war, which means diplomats need to be able to talk.”
However, Grenell’s vocal support of the president, online and overseas, has prompted critics to call him an ideologue. His appointment last week sparked an avalanche of panic from the mainstream media, with one former Obama official and CNN national security analyst calling Grenell the “least qualified person to ever” serve in the role.
It’s not known yet who will succeed Grenell. Trump said Thursday that he is considering Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., for the permanent director of National Intelligence job. But Collins told Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo the next morning that while he’s humbled by the possible offer, he is focused on running for Senate and would not accept it.
Fox News’ Gregg Re, Don Snyder, Joseph A. Wulfsohn and Tyler Olson contributed to this report.