Thursday, February 20, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He appointed a new intelligence chief because he didn't like what the old one was telling him.

Today, Trump officially announced that he was appointing Richard Grenell to the position of Acting Director of National Intelligence. Grenell is best known for nearly being expelled by Germany from his post as U.S. ambassador there for his political interference on behalf of right-wing groups there. 

Contrary to the announcement, Grenell has no experience whatsoever with intelligence matters. He does, however, have a long record of insisting that Russia's hacking and disinformation campaign during the 2016 election was normal and nothing to be too concerned about.

Grenell will replace another acting DNI, Joseph Maguire. The reason why is significant. According to reporting out today, Trump began to suspect Maguire of being "disloyal" because his office shared its findings on Russia's ongoing election interference with both parties in Congress. Trump somehow mistakenly believed that one of Maguire's subordinates released it only to Democrats, and even though this is not true, he apparently remained furious with Maguire.

UPDATE, 8:00 P.M. EDT: Subsequent reporting released later today make clear that Trump was furious that Maguire told Congress about Russia's attempts to interfere in the 2020 election on specifically on Trump's behalf, just as it did in 2016. Even Congressional Republicans were horrified by the briefing, which took place last Thursday.

Ironically, had Trump not replaced Maguire with someone he thought was less "disloyal," the upshot of the classified DNI briefing—the absolute certainty that Russia is once again actively interfering to help Trump—would not now be coming to light. 

Why does this matter?

  • It's bad to appoint people to important government jobs they're unqualified for just because they're political supporters.
  • The only reason, besides incompetence, that a president would ignore a foreign threat to the sanctity of American democracy is that he thought he'd lose in a fair election.