Trump picks new acting national intelligence director

  • 9 Aug 2019

President Donald Trump on Thursday named Joseph Maguire, the top US counterterrorism official, as Dan Coats's replacement at the agency that oversees 17 spy agencies. The same day deputy national intelligence director Sue Gordon quit.

In this file photo taken on July 25, 2018, Joseph Maguire speaks during his confirmation hearing for director of the National Counterterrorism Center before the US Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. ( AFP )

US President Donald Trump on Thursday named Joseph Maguire, the nation's top counterterrorism official, as acting national intelligence director, part of a leadership shake-up at the agency that oversees 17 spy agencies.

Maguire will become acting director on August 15, the same day that National Intelligence Director Dan Coats' resignation takes effect. It's also the same day that deputy national intelligence director Sue Gordon will be walking out the door. 

Democrats accused Trump of pushing out two dedicated intelligence professionals.

It's unclear if Trump, who has had an uneven relationship with the intelligence agencies since he took office, plans to also nominate Maguire to formally replace Coats.

After Coats announced his retirement late last month, the president nominated Texas GOP Representative John Ratcliffe to be the new director of national intelligence. But Ratcliffe removed himself from consideration after just five days amid criticism about his lack of intelligence experience and qualifications for the job.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has been in upheaval since Coats, who had bumped elbows with Trump, announced late last month that he was stepping down as of August 15. 

Then on Thursday, Gordon, who has worked in the intelligence field for three decades, announced she was leaving the same day with Coats.

Gordon spent a quarter-century in the CIA before becoming second-in-command to outgoing Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and was in line to serve as acting director.

But the departure of Gordon, a seasoned, independent-minded senior official, will be seen as a blow to an intelligence community already uneasy about Coats leaving.

Gordon enjoyed support on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill, but critics say Trump is suspicious of career officials in an establishment he has long hoped to reshape in his own image.

"I am confident in what the intelligence community has accomplished and what it is poised to do going forward," Gordon wrote in her brief resignation letter addressed to Trump.

"Know that our people are our strength, and they will never fail you or the Nation. You are in good hands," she said.

Richard Burr, the Republican head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Gordon had "earned the respect and admiration of her colleagues with her patriotism and vision", while the committee's Democratic vice chairman, Mark Warner, said her departure was "a real loss" to the community and the country.


"President Trump has repeatedly demonstrated that he is seemingly incapable of hearing facts that contradict his own views," Warner said in a statement.

"The mission of the intelligence community is to speak truth to power."

Yet in pushing out two dedicated public servants in as many weeks, once again the president has shown that he has no problem prioritising his political ego even if it comes at the expense of our national security."

Federal law dictates that if the director of national intelligence leaves, the deputy should serve as acting director.

Coats did not see eye-to-eye with Trump on a range of issues while serving as the official who oversees and coordinates the CIA, the National Security Agency and 15 other US intelligence bodies.

"It has been a privilege serving with Sue Gordon to lead ... the intelligence community over these past two years. She is a visionary leader who has made an enormous impact on the IC over the more than three decades she has served," Coats said in a statement.

"I have had the pleasure of working with NCTC Director Joseph Maguire as part of my leadership team ... and I am pleased that the president has announced that Joe will serve as acting DNI. Joe has had a long, distinguished career serving the nation and will lead the men and women in the IC with distinction."