Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell accused House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff late Tuesday of “politicizing” the intelligence community by leaking concerns about personnel changes to the press.
Schiff, D-Calif., on Tuesday, penned a letter to Grenell laying out his concerns with the acting director’s staffing changes in the Office of National Intelligence.
But Grenell slammed Schiff, saying the press received that letter before he did.
“His letter was sent to the press before it was sent to me,” Grenell tweeted late Tuesday. “These press leaks politicizing the intelligence community must stop.”
Schiff’s letter said Grenell was “pursuing organizational and personnel changes” in ODNI “without consulting and seeking authorization from Congress and in a manner that undermines critical intelligence functions.”
Schiff criticized Grenell for making such changes at ODNI while he temporarily holds the post.
“President Trump did not nominate you for confirmation as permanent DNI, and it would be inappropriate for you to pursue any additional leadership, organizational, or staffing changes to ODNI during your temporary tenure,” Schiff wrote. “Any effort, moreover, to remove or otherwise initiate personnel actions against apolitical career officers based on their perceived loyalty to the President would contravene civil service protections.”
Grenell, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany, was appointed acting director of national intelligence in February after the previous acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, was removed. Grenell, a Trump ally, is the first openly gay Cabinet member in history, even on an acting basis.
But just weeks later, President Trump nominated Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, to serve as the permanent DNI.
Ratcliffe, a former federal prosecutor who had been a fierce defender of Trump and his agenda, was one of the most vocal critics of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Ratcliffe will likely face a fierce confirmation battle as Democrats have argued he was selected due to his loyalty rather than experience.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Schiff also called on Grenell to, in writing and by April 16, provide a letter stating whether he had ever attempted “to prohibit” the now-fired intelligence community inspector general Michael Atkinson from “initiating, carrying out, or completing any investigation, inspection, audit or review.”
“The Committee is reviewing the circumstances of Mr. Atkinson’s dismissal, including whether his termination was intended to curb any ongoing investigations or reviews being undertaken by his office,” Schiff wrote, calling for a written vow by April 16 that Grenell would not interfere with the work of future inspector generals.
Schiff's letter to Grenell comes just days after Trump fired Atkinson, who played a key role in notifying Congress about the whistleblower complaint concerning Trump's communications with Ukraine that ultimately led to his impeachment.
"This is to advise that I am exercising my power as President to remove from office the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, effective 30 days from today," the president wrote in a letter to Schiff and House Intelligence Community Ranking Member Devin Nunes, R-Calif. "It is extremely important that we promote the economy, efficiency, and the effectiveness of Federal programs and activities. The Inspectors General have a critical role in the achievement of these goals."
He added: "As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as President, have the power of appointment, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General. That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General."
The president added he would nominate a replacement "who has my full confidence and who meets the appropriate qualifications," at a later time. Tom Monheim, a career intelligence professional, was named acting inspector general for the intelligence community.
Schiff immediately slammed the president for his move.
"Trump’s dead of night decision to fire ICIG Michael Atkinson is another blatant attempt to gut the independence of the Intelligence Community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing," he tweeted. "It puts our country and national security at even greater risk."