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Trump picks counterterrorism chief as interim intel head

Retired Vice Adm. Joseph Maguire after testifying during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing to be confirmed as the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, on Capitol Hill, on July 25, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Al Drago/Getty Images/TNS)

President Donald Trump said Joseph Maguire, head of the National Counterterrorism Center, will take over as Acting Director of National Intelligence when Dan Coats leaves the post next week.

Maguire has had a “long and distinguished” career in the military, Trump said in a pair of tweets late Thursday. “He commanded at every level, including the Naval Special Warfare Command. He has also served as a National Security Fellow at Harvard University. I have no doubt he will do a great job!”

Trump’s tweet came shortly after he announced that Sue Gordon — the deputy director of national intelligence — will resign this months along with Coats, her boss. Gordon would have been next in line to serve as acting director until the Senate confirmed Trump’s choice for a permanent replacement.

Several Trump allies outside the White House had urged the president to remove Gordon, a career intelligence officer, describing her as too close to former CIA Director John Brennan. Brennan has publicly criticized Trump’s leadership, and the president in turn has called him “the worst CIA director in our country’s history.”

Trump had told reporters Friday that he liked Gordon “very much” and said he might appoint her acting director.

But after House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, praised Gordon last month, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, “If Adam Schiff wants her in there, the rumors about her being besties with Brennan and the rest of the clown cadre must be 100% true.”

Trump’s first choice to replace Coats, Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas, withdrew from consideration following public scrutiny of his qualifications for the job and his combative questioning of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller at a House hearing.

It’s unclear whom Trump is considering for director of national intelligence, but he has recently spoken with Fred Fleitz, a former chief of staff for the National Security Council. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., advised Trump on possible selections but isn’t under consideration himself, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Administration officials also have discussed former Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan for the position, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Trump has indicated he wanted a political loyalist to take charge of the nation’s intelligence community, regarded by some of the president’s allies and supporters as a “deep state” intent on undermining him. Attorney General William Barr has opened an investigation of what he has said was “spying” on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“We need somebody strong that can really rein it in,” Trump said last month. “Because as I think you’ve all learned, the intelligence agencies have run amok.”

Gordon’s departure may heighten concern among some lawmakers of both parties that the intelligence agencies are increasingly vulnerable to political interference.

Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence panel that will act on an eventually nominee to replace Coats, sent a signal of support for Gordon last month.

“I’m heartened by the fact that ODNI has an experienced and capable leadership team to help see it through this transition,” Burr said in a statement at the time.


© 2019 Bloomberg News

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