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Trump forces out yet another national intelligence leader

Sue Gordon, a 30-year veteran of America’s intelligence agencies, is the latest person to leave the Trump administration.

By Lisa Needham - August 09, 2019
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Sue Gordon

On Thursday, Trump continued his impressive efforts to completely destabilize America’s national security by forcing out Sue Gordon, the deputy director of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Of course, he announced it via tweet.

As principal deputy director, Gordon has been heading the nation’s intelligence apparatus — the director of national intelligence (DNI) oversees 17 agencies — since Trump forced Dan Coats out at the end of July. Initially, Trump was going to install Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) as the DNI, but Ratcliffe flamed out almost immediately when it turned out he’d wildly inflated his resume.

That left Gordon in charge, which is actually the law — a federal statute requires the deputy director to serve as acting director when the DNI steps down. But, as the New York Times noted, there’s a loophole. The White House gets to name someone as an acting director if there’s no deputy director.

And Trump loves having acting directors rather than confirmed appointees because it gives him “more flexibility.”

So Gordon had to go, even though she’d served in the CIA and other intelligence agencies for over 30 years and had bipartisan support for getting the nod for the top job.

And lest there be any question whether leaving was her choice, she penned a note to Trump saying, “I offer this letter as an act of respect & patriotism, not preference. You should have your team.” In other words, she wasn’t the one who wanted to leave.

Trump, also via tweet, announced his new pick for the acting director: Joseph Maguire, current director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Maguire assumes the acting role August 15, but he also may not be around very long because there are some horrible people still in the running to be DNI.

Politico reported that Trump might tap Pete Hoekstra. Hoekstra is mostly famous for being anti-Muslim and comically declaring his own words “fake news” when the Dutch press asked him about some of his more rabid statements. Another possible candidate is Fred Fleitz, who is as anti-Muslim as Hoekstra but has the added charm of also being a climate change denier.

Even Republicans seemed dismayed by Trump forcing Gordon out. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr declared Gordon’s retirement “a significant loss for our intelligence community.”

There’s no longer any continuity in intelligence community oversight. For Trump, who loves to believe that the FBI, the CIA, and more are simply part of a “deep state” out to get him, this is exactly the way he wants it.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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