May 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Trump weighs tapping Grenell to chair intelligence advisory board

Photo: Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images

President Trump is seriously considering appointing acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell to chair the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB), according to two sources familiar with discussions.

Between the lines: The role does not require Senate confirmation, and advisors that sit on the panel are permitted to do private sector work.

Context: The precursor to PIAB was established by President Eisenhower in 1956 after he concluded that he needed an outside panel of advisers to give him "unfettered and candid appraisals of U.S. intelligence activities," according to the White House website.

The big picture: The tentative plan would be that as soon as President Trump's nominee for director of national intelligence Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) is confirmed by the Senate — which could happen as soon as next week — Grenell would take over as chair of PIAB from billionaire investor Steve Feinberg.

  • Feinberg, who is CEO of Cerberus Capital Management and maintains extensive financial interests, would then move over to a senior role at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that does not require Senate confirmation, as Axios has previously reported.

Why it matters: Grenell has increasingly earned Trump's favor during his short tenure overseeing the U.S. intelligence community, which the president has long viewed with suspicion.

  • Grenell last week declassified a list of Obama administration officials who asked to "unmask" the identity of former national security adviser Michael Flynn when he was under government surveillance.
  • On Wednesday, two Republican senators released the list of names that Grenell had declassified. Trump has told people he’s glad that he’s finally got somebody in charge of intelligence who is doing what he has long wanted done.
  • Grenell has been a lightning rod for criticism and has been cheered on by the president’s political allies, including conservative media figures like Sean Hannity.

An ODNI spokeswoman declined to comment. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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