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Richard Grenell left his position as the acting director of national intelligence with a bit of a bang, declassifying more documents related to the origins of the Russia investigation.
Grenell, who made headlines earlier this month when he declassified other transcripts of interviews from the Russia probe, made the parting move as he left the job to his successor, newly sworn-in Director John Ratcliffe.
The newly declassified documents include the transcripts from phone calls between former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak back in December 2016. Grenell also reviewed other related documents, with one being “very significant in understanding how intelligence was manipulated to support launching the Russia investigation,” a senior intelligence official told Fox News.
After three months on the job, as he simultaneously served as the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Grenell effectively left it up to Ratcliffe on whether to make the declassified documents public.
RT to congratulate the new Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe! pic.twitter.com/ppF7cXfWnb
— GOP (@GOP) May 21, 2020
Thousands of pages of transcripts from interviews in the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation were cleared for release by Grenell who also released a list of officials in former President Obama’s administration who requested to unmask Flynn’s identity, including then-Vice President Joe Biden, then-FBI Director James Comey, then-CIA Director John Brennan and then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
President Trump praised the outgoing DNI, who also announced he was stepping down from the ambassador position, hailing him last week “as the all-time great acting ever, at any position.”
“I’d like to congratulate @RichardGrenell for doing such a fantastic job as acting….What a job. I think you’ll go down as the all-time great acting ever, at any position.”
— Elizabeth Harrington (@LizRNC) May 19, 2020
According to Fox News, during his three month stint as acting director, Grenell accomplished a great deal:
A senior intelligence official told Fox News that during his time at ODNI, Grenell appointed the first female to lead the National Counterterrorism Center, Lora Shiao; established an intelligence community-wide working group to support a policy for the decriminalization of homosexuality in the 69 countries where being LGBT is a punishable offense; finalized and released the National Intelligence Estimate on the future of ISIS through 2021; and engaged foreign liaison partners to form a working group to increase intelligence sharing with key allies on Hezbollah.
The official also told Fox News that Grenell directed the intelligence community to change the way it protects the identities of U.S. citizens contained within intelligence reporting, urging consistency to the process and ensuring the “greater privacy” of U.S. citizens.
Grenell’s accomplishments came amid much opposition and criticism from Democrats. But he apparently had no problem putting the critics in their place, taking aim at Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Mark Warner on Monday.
“As you are well aware, there are substantial protections built into the process for requesting that identities of U.S. persons be unmasked in intelligence reports, ensuring that the rights of individual Americans are protected and that unmasking requests are granted only to those who need the information in order to protect U.S. national security,” Warner wrote in a letter to Grenell last week.
The outgoing acting Director let him have it in a response delivered Monday.
“I find it puzzling that your letter initially complains about the declassification of the identities of unmaskers, a declassification that posed no conceivable risks to sources or methods, only to then request the declassification of actual intelligence reports,” Grenell wrote to the Virginia lawmaker and top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
— Tom Bevan (@TomBevanRCP) May 26, 2020
“Cherry picking certain documents for release, while attacking the release of others that don’t fit your political narrative is part of the problem the American people have with Washington DC politicians,” he wrote.