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Richard Grenell. Photo: Milos Miskov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell is pushing to cut U.S. intelligence sharing with countries that criminalize homosexuality, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: About 69 countries still criminalize homosexuality — including key U.S. intelligence partners like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kenya, per the Times. Grenell is the first openly gay Cabinet member and has prioritized anti-discrimination policies.

  • "We can’t just simply make the moral argument and expect others to respond in kind because telling others that it’s the right thing to do doesn’t always work. ... [T]o fight for decriminalization is to fight for basic human rights," Grenell told the Times in an interview.

The state of play: Grenell told the Times he has "the president’s total support" and that anti-discrimination "is an American value, and this is United States policy." But Grenell has not made clear if the plan is to withhold additional cooperation or instead draw back on current intelligence sharing levels.

  • Grenell has also suggested that foreign aid could be effective leverage to push countries toward decriminalizing homosexuality, according to Hadi Damien, founder of Lebanon’s Beirut Pride group, who participated in discussions with Grenell when he served as ambassador to Germany.

Between the lines: Since he only serves in an acting capacity, Grenell's appointment is set to end in September. But he says he intends to make the most of his time, telling the Times: "The president asked me to do a job and I am going to do the job to the best of my ability."

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to attribute Grenell's suggestion about foreign aid to Hadi Damien.

Go deeper

Updated 13 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

14 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.