Republican Sen. Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, broke days of silence about President Donald Trump’s pick for the acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell, indicating Burr backs the selection even as others have voiced concerns about his lack of experience in the area.
Grenell, who is the US ambassador to Germany, is a staunch loyalist to Trump and someone whom critics from both parties have said does not have specific experience in the intelligence community typically found in previous DNIs. That’s why praise from Burr, who as intelligence chairman is among the most influential lawmakers on Capitol Hill with the intelligence community, is a significant sign of support.
“I’m supportive of the President’s pick,” Burr, of North Carolina, said on Capitol Hill. “To suggest that he’s not equipped to do it is to disregard what ambassadors do every day.”
Grenell has said he’s only temporarily planning to fill the role as Trump finds a permanent replacement, a fact Burr mentioned in his comments.
“I feel comfortable with him in a temporary role and having him there,” he added.
Congressional Democrats have expressed alarm over the appointment, while other Senate Republicans have so far given a tepid reaction to the decision. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ignored a question from reporters on Monday about whether he supports Grenell. McConnell also did not respond to a follow-up question asking if he is concerned at all about Grenell being seen as a political operative.
Former acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire formally resigned last week from US government service after Trump made it clear he would not be nominated for the full-time intelligence chief job, a source familiar with the matter told CNN last week.
Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Monday that she wanted Trump to nominate Maguire for the permanent slot.
“I care deeply about that position and believe that the person needs experience in the intelligence community, which, regrettably, Ambassador Grenell does not have,” she said.