Other than Vladimir Putin, it’s hard to imagine a more terrifying choice for acting director of national intelligence than the completely unqualified Trump sycophant Ric Grenell.
After sucking up to Donald Trump on Fox News, where Grenell was a contributor after he left the George W. Bush administration, he was appointed ambassador to Germany. There, he has not exactly earned a reputation as someone who works to bring people together, as the DNI is supposed to do. The New York Times reported this week, “Mr. Grenell’s style put off other officials and ultimately isolated him, the German publication Der Spiegel reported last year. “The powerful avoid him,” the newsmagazine wrote. “Doors have been shut.”
Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Washington Post columnist writes about Grenell:
“Ric” Grenell has no intelligence background. He spent the George W. Bush administration as the spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, where he developed a terrible reputation among reporters. The veteran Reuters correspondent Irwin Arieff told HuffPost that Grenell was “the most dishonest and deceptive press person I ever worked with. He often lied.” That is a big problem, given that the job of the DNI is to tell the truth — including uncomfortable truths that the president would rather not hear.
Grenell became a noxious pro-Trump troll in 2015-2016. He claimed that a Gold Star father criticized Trump to enrich himself, called the Democratic convention an “anti-police” rally and suggested that a female journalist slept her way into her job. He badgered and harassed journalists online (including me). He was such a Trump toady that he even acquired “Gold” level status at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.
Media Matters’ Matt Gertz notes that Trump is trying to remake the U.S. intelligence community the way he has remade the Department of Justice.
We’ve seen all of this before. Trump wanted the Justice Department to prioritize his personal and political interests. When he felt that Attorney General Jeff Sessions wasn’t living up to that goal, he pushed him out, and eventually replaced him with someone who would. Over the last year, William Barr has been covering up Trump’s misdeeds, trying to get his associates off the hook, ginning up investigations of his perceived foes, and pushing out prosecutors who won’t get with that program. And Fox has been cheering him every step of the way.
Now it’s the intelligence community’s turn to face the prospect of being used as a tool for the president's personal interests and political gain. Before long, U.S. intelligence reports might come to resemble something out of Fox & Friends.
Just last week, Grenell was even Trumpier than Barr. In response to Barr’s recent complaint that Trump’s tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job,” Grenell declared, on Fox’s Cavuto Live show, that the tweets make his job “so much easier.”
I took a stroll through some of our old posts about Grenell from his Fox-contributor years. It couldn’t be clearer that this man should not be in charge of anything more than a Twitter account:
Grenell speaking about Trump’s Muslim ban:
“I don’t understand why people would be against a temporary halt to ensure that the system is safe.” Grenell complained, “We’re not having that honest conversation because we’ve got members of the media who immediately called it something that it’s not.”
Grenell reportedly played a “key role” in publicizing right-wing criticisms of the Obama administration's Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap with the Taliban, in order to make partisan, political hay out of a sensitive international matter.
Baselessly used the disappearance of a Malaysian plane to fear monger that President Barack Obama is soft on terrorism.
You probably get the picture.
According to Media Matters, Grenell is one of 19 current or former Trump administration officials who came from Fox News. 11 of those 19 are currently there. Four current employees of Fox came from the Trump administration and two have rotated all the way through the revolving door, from one to the other and back again.
(Grenell image via screen grab)
He’s a classic example of an anti-Trumper turned a favorite butt-kisser. Reading his background, it’s also interesting to see his personality is that of a Mini Me Trump. Narcissistic. Unread. Willfully ignorant. Serial liar creating a political fantasy world. Thumbs his nose at ethics. Ultimately completely incompetent.
But in the Trump era where new corruption and outrages arise hourly, this media story like so many has little traction. Social media blew up over it but the news reported it then moved right on to the next shiny Trump thingie. Maybe that’s the real story: the media’s breakdown and failure.