President Trump has named Richard Grenell, the openly gay U.S. ambassador to Germany, as the new Acting Director of National Intelligence, making him the first out gay person to be appointed to a Cabinet-level position.
A prominent Trump defender who previously served as a commentator for Fox News, Grenell was nominated by Trump and eventually confirmed by the U.S. Senate as ambassador in 2018, which at the time made him the highest-ranking LGBTQ person within the Trump administration.
Grenell, who first cut his teeth during the George W. Bush Administration, is known best for his hawkish foreign policy views and unwavering loyalty to Trump.
He previously served as the Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy for the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2001 to 2008.
Grenell replaces former U.S. Navy Admiral Joseph Maguire, who took over as acting director after former Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) stepped down from the position last August.
In his statement announcing he would return to his previous role as Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, reports The Independent.
Trump issued a tweet praising Grenell’s qualifications for the DNI job.
“I am pleased to announce that our highly respected Ambassador to Germany, @RichardGrenell, will become the Acting Director of National Intelligence. Rick has represented our Country exceedingly well and I look forward to working with him. I would like to thank Joe Maguire for the wonderful job he has done, and we look forward to working with him closely, perhaps in another capacity within the Administration!”
….for the wonderful job he has done, and we look forward to working with him closely, perhaps in another capacity within the Administration!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2020
The Log Cabin Republicans, the national LGBTQ Republican group that has endorsed President Trump’s re-election bid, praised Grenell’s appointment and called him “totally qualified.”
“We’re excited that @realDonaldTrump has appointed the first openly gay presidential cabinet member. @RichardGrenell is totally qualified and we’re exciting (sic) that he’ll be making history,” the group tweeted.
We’re excited that @realDonaldTrump has appointed the first openly gay presidential cabinet member. @RichardGrenell is totally qualified and we’re exciting that he’ll be making history. https://t.co/rcTsY7V7Y8
— LogCabinRepublicans (@LogCabinGOP) February 20, 2020
The organization incorrectly stated that Grenell is a “Cabinet member,” although he will serve as the president’s chief adviser on intelligence issues. The Director of National Intelligence is a Cabinet-level member who oversees the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, and other U.S. intelligence agencies, but is not in the presidential line of succession.
Grenell, who has a strong Twitter presence and often trolls liberals online, has previously been criticized by Senate Democrats during his confirmation hearings for past tweets insulting the looks of prominent women, including Hillary Clinton, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, and former First Lady Michelle Obama, according to NBC News.
As ambassador, Grenell has often clashed with establishment figures in Germany and throughout Europe, particularly liberal politicians, due to his outspokenness and take-no-prisoners style of confrontation.
Last year, he received death threats that appeared to be motivated by some of his political stances, which include opposing Germany’s pursuit of a natural gas pipeline to Russia, Germany and other European nations’ embrace of Chinese telecom companies — which he argues could compromise intelligence-sharing between the United States and those allies — and Germany’s business contracts and other dealings with Iran.
As ambassador, he was tapped by Trump to lead the United States’ campaign calling on foreign governments to repeal laws criminalizing homosexuality.
Approximately 70 countries around the world punish homosexuality with jail time or death. The campaign — which Trump initially seemed unaware of, a day after it was announced — is often cited by supporters of the president to blunt criticisms from Democrats and LGBTQ advocates that Trump is not anti-LGBTQ.
Grenell has also jumped to the defense of Vice President Mike Pence, attacking Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg of making up a “hate hoax along the lines of Jussie Smollett” when Buttigieg insists that Pence, a former U.S. congressman and governor of Indiana, holds anti-LGBTQ views.
“Mike and Karen [Pence] are great people,” Grenell said. “They are godly people. They’re followers of Christ. They don’t have hate in their heart for anyone.”
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