President Donald Trump has made an unconventional pick to oversee America's spy agencies: an unusually undiplomatic ambassador who has had little intelligence experience.
The appointment on Thursday of Richard Grenell, an outspoken Trump loyalist, as acting Director of National Intelligence does little to heal the president's fraught relations with an intelligence community he has derided as part of the "deep state" of entrenched bureaucrats that seek to undermine his agenda.
But it follows the logic of an administration that prizes loyalty and has a penchant for "acting" Cabinet secretaries who don't require a potentially bruising Senate confirmation.
The background of Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany since April 2018, is primarily in politics and media affairs. He lacks the extensive national security and military experience of the acting director he replaces, Joseph Maguire, as well as previous holders of the position. Such experience appears to be required under the 2004 law that created the post to co-ordinate the work of the nation's 17 intelligence agencies.
"He is probably the most unqualified individual ever appointed to this position," said Larry Pfeiffer, a former longtime intelligence agency official who helped establish the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
But Grenell has support among the president's backers on Capitol Hill. "Ric has a proven track record of fighting for our country, and now, he will work every day to make sure Americans are safe," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Ca., said on Twitter.
In announcing Grenell's appointment, the White House pointed to his diplomatic background and work as a spokesman for the US mission to the United Nations. Trump said on Twitter that "Rick has represented our Country exceedingly well."
His selection follows the logic of an administration that has feuded with the intelligence community, most notably over Russian interference in the 2016 election and the events surrounding Trump's impeachment.
Australian Associated Press