National security

Trump makes Richard Grenell first openly gay cabinet member in history

Richard Grenell and President Donald Trump
Richard Grenell and President Donald Trump (Photo: @RichardGrenell | Twitter)

Donald Trump is appointing Richard Grenell, US ambassador to Germany since 2018, to the position of acting Director of National Intelligence.

The President tweeted the news last night, saying, “I am pleased to announce that our highly respected Ambassador to Germany, @RichardGrenell, will become the Acting Director of National Intelligence. Rick has represented our Country exceedingly well and I look forward to working with him.”

It is the most senior intelligence position in the Trump administration and entails overseeing 17 different military and civilian intelligence agencies, including the CIA. In doing so, Grenell, 53, becomes the first openly gay man to hold a cabinet position.

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Among those to congratulate and praise Grenell was Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, who tweeted, “Fifty years ago a gay man or woman couldn’t work in the intelligence community. Today President Trump is appointing an openly gay man to serve as Acting Director of National Intelligence. Congratulations, Ambassador @RichardGrenell.”

Grenell has been an outspoken advocate for advancing LGBTQ rights around the world, recently criticizing, “Hollywood gays who raise a lot of money for black tie events and aren’t doing a thing to help our brothers and sisters in Lebanon…”

However, the move has surprised some observers. The role of intelligence chief – created after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 – is usually bipartisan. Many regard Grenell as a staunch Trump loyalist who frequently voices his support – particularly on Twitter – for the President on a wide range of issues.

By making Grenell the ‘acting’ Intelligence chief, the President also side-steps the need for Senate confirmation – a tactic he has used previously in order to place loyalists in position of power.

Grenell and longterm partner Matt Lashley
Grenell and longterm partner, Matt Lashley (Photo: @RichardGrenell | Twitter)

Some critics have already denounced Grenell for having little intelligence experience compared to previous holders of the role. He has no background in the military or working specifically for intelligence agencies – although he receives security briefings in his capacity as a US ambassador.

Related: Germans think Trump’s gay ambassador is an ignorant, thin-skinned, far-right tool

“The president has selected an individual without any intelligence experience to serve as the leader of the nation’s intelligence community in an acting capacity,” said Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee.

Former National Security Agency lawyer Susan Hennessey went further on Twitter, saying: “This should frighten you. Not just brazen politicization of intelligence, but also someone who is utterly incompetent in an important security role. The guardrails are gone.”