Richard Grenell, the Trump administration official serving as both the acting director of national intelligence and U.S. ambassador to Germany, will step down from his role in Berlin once a permanent replacement to lead America’s spy agencies gains Senate confirmation.
The White House confirmed Wednesday that Grenell would leave his ambassadorship if Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), President Donald Trump’s choice to become America’s permanent spy chief, is confirmed, although such an outcome could take months and faces hurdles in Congress.
Trump named Grenell as acting DNI in February to replace Joseph Maguire, who had been serving in the temporary role. Maguire was reportedly sidelined after the president learned a member of his team had briefed House lawmakers that Russia was attempting to interfere in the 2020 elections to get Trump re-elected.
Grenell, 53, is the first openly gay cabinet member and an ardent Trump supporter. He has served as the ambassador to Germany since 2018, and quickly made waves after criticizing the country’s government and its immigration policies.
Trump said last week he planned to nominate Ratcliffe to be his permanent intelligence chief ― a surprise choice, given that Trump tapped the lawmaker for the same job last year and then backtracked amid concerns about his experience. The Washington Post reported at the time that current and former intelligence officials had called Ratcliffe the “least-qualified person ever nominated” to the role.
But Ratcliffe, also a vocal Trump supporter, drew praise from the president for his public role defending the president during the House’s impeachment proceedings.
It’s unclear if his confirmation will clear the Senate, but The New York Times has reported that the White House believes he has a better chance than he did last year.
Some Republicans had been pushing Trump to nominate a national security professional for the permanent DNI post, which oversees the country’s 17 intelligence agencies. The role has been vacant since mid-August when Dan Coats, a former GOP senator, stepped down.
Under federal law, Grenell can serve in an acting capacity for at least 210 additional days following Ratcliffe’s nomination, and the tenure would be extended once again if the nomination is scuttled by the Senate.