Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell is leading the push for what he called “basic human rights” in an interview this week with The New York Times.
“We can’t just simply make the moral argument and expect others to respond in kind because telling others that it’s the right thing to do doesn’t always work,” he told The Times.
Around 69 countries still criminalize homosexuality, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kenya with whom the U.S. shares intelligence.
“If a country that we worked in as the United States intelligence community was arresting women because of their gender, we would absolutely do something about it,” Grenell added. “Ultimately, the United States is safer when our partners respect basic human rights.”
“Ultimately, the United States is safer when our partners respect basic human rights.”
Grenell, who took over as acting director after Trump fired former acting director Joseph Maguire in February, said he has the president’s “total support.”
He didn’t go into further detail but intelligence officials told The Times he is putting together a team to develop ideas.
Grenell was formerly the U.S. ambassador to Germany, is believed to be the first openly gay cabinet member and has made anti-discrimination efforts a centerpiece of his time in the administration, The Times reported.
The paper quoted Hadi Damien, the founder of Lebanon’s Beirut Pride group, in saying Grenell could potentially use foreign aid as an incentive.
Stuart Milk, who runs the Harvey Milk Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes LGBT equality, said Grenell reached out and he believes he’s “very sincere.”
“He is someone who believes, at the very minimum, decriminalization should happen,” Milk told The Times. “And if we have an administration where people wouldn’t suspect this drive to be coming from, it makes it a little bit more powerful.”
Grenell, who has faced some controversy over his appointment, recently chastised Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., for requesting more information about reorganization efforts he’s making while temporarily heading DNI and has ignored other Democrats’ calls to hold off on changes.
Schiff said major changes within the office should only be implemented by a Senate-confirmed director, Politico reported.
“I am not a seat warmer,” Grenell said, according to The Times. “The president asked me to do a job and I am going to do the job to the best of my ability.”
Since he is an acting director, Grenell will likely be out of the job in September or when a permanent director is confirmed, The Times reported.