Richard Grenell, nominee to be US ambassador to Germany, testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, September 27, 2017. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Trump appoints intel chief with no intel experience
02:38 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Some top intelligence officials are looking to leave following the recent upheaval at the office that oversees the 17 intelligence agencies of the US government, including the controversial appointment of Richard Grenell as the nation’s top intelligence official, a US official told CNN.

Grenell has said he is only temporarily filling the position of acting director of American spy agencies, but he is already making his mark. Grenell, a President Donald Trump loyalist, is also still serving as the US ambassador to Germany. After his appointment to the intelligence post this week, officials at the office of the director of national intelligence (ODNI) made calls to US diplomats in Germany inquiring about Grenell’s leadership style, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN.

Earlier this week, Grenell quickly forced out the number two intelligence official in the US government, Andrew Hallman, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to CNN. Hallman was an intelligence veteran and well respected in the intelligence community.

CNN reported earlier this week that Hallman was leaving. The New York Times first reported Grenell ousted him.

There are fears within the intelligence community that Hallman may not be the only top official forced out. Career intelligence professionals worry that Shelby Pierson, the person in charge of evaluating intelligence regarding election security with the ODNI, will be moved out of her position, according to a former top intelligence official.

Pierson is highly regarded and viewed as not partisan by intelligence community colleagues who know her to be confident and well versed in the work she does. She isn’t afraid of making tough calls and fiercely defending her analysis when challenged, colleagues say.

Pierson has done briefings for senior leaders for years and her experience and preparation shows, said one former intelligence official who worked with her.

During the recent House briefing, she faced a series of questions from lawmakers who were trying to pin her down on whether the intelligence showed a Russian preference for Trump, and she finally relented to provide her view of what the intelligence showed, one source familiar with the matter said. It’s the type of situation intelligence briefers are prepped to avoid, the source said, in part so as not to wade into partisan controversy.

The answer she gave has been misconstrued because it’s missing the context and nuance, the source said.

Pierson is still on the job, according to sources with knowledge of her status. She did not reply to a request for comment.

She led the recent briefing to the House Intelligence Committee in which the intelligence assessment regarding Russia trying to interfere in this year’s election to help Trump was revealed.

Trump said Friday he was eyeing four people as possibilities to officially nominate for the job to lead the intelligence office.