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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

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

The winners and losers of the pandemic holiday season

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The pandemic has upended Thanksgiving and the shopping season that the holiday kicks off, creating a new crop of economic winners and losers.

The big picture: Just as it has exacerbated inequality in every other facet of American life, the coronavirus pandemic is deepening inequities in the business world, with the biggest and most powerful companies rapidly outpacing the smaller players.

Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

The daily rate of new coronavirus infections rose by about 10 percent in the final week before Thanksgiving, continuing a dismal trend that may get even worse in the weeks to come.

Why it matters: Travel and large holiday celebrations are most dangerous in places where the virus is spreading widely — and right now, that includes the entire U.S.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions previously imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds the first significant action by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.