Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) got a vicious scolding from President Donald Trump’s top spy on Tuesday.
In a letter, Richard Grenell slapped down the House Intelligence Committee chairman for accusing him of politicizing the Intelligence Community and making unauthorized changes to the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), The Hill reported. Schiff and other Democrats have claimed that Grenell, a Trump “loyalist” appointed temporarily to the post of ODNI chief, is orchestrating a partisan shake-up in U.S. intelligence to benefit Donald Trump.
Indeed, in a vicious letter on April 7, Schiff accused Grenell of making “inappropriate” changes to intelligence departments, since he is serving in a temporary role that did not receive Congress’s blessing. Schiff also complained about President Trump’s firing of Michael Atkinson, the inspector general who briefed Congress on the infamous Ukraine “whistleblower,” and accused Grenell’s staff of giving a deceiving briefing to lawmakers about election security.
“These developments call into question both your commitment to ensuring that the Intelligence Community’s (IC) work on behalf of our nation is not inappropriately influenced by political considerations, as required by law and that the IC will continue to speak truth to power,” Schiff, evoking the charged rhetoric of impeachment, wrote, according to Law & Crime.
In an equally sharp letter, Grenell made clear that he wasn’t moved by Schiff’s complaints. As The Washington Times notes, Trump’s top spy rebuked Schiff for overstepping his appropriate oversight role as Intelligence chairman, and urged Schiff to “think of the relationship between your committee and the IC as that between the legislative and executive branches of government, rather than that between a hedge fund and a distressed asset, as your letter suggests.”
Grenell also said that staffing changes were made at the recommendation of career members of the IC, and that Schiff was in the wrong for failing to recognize the “diversity” of new hires, including two women to leadership positions at the National Counterterrorism Center, the New York Post reported.
“I must disagree with your proposals to divest the DNI of managerial competence and personnel decision-making authority, and to replace your committee’s mandate for Intelligence Community (IC) oversight with a mandate for IC administration,” Grenell wrote to Schiff, according to The Washington Times.
While President Trump has often complained about a “coup” by rogue intelligence agents in a politicized IC, many Democrats have leveraged a similar accusation at Trump: that the president and his top officials are part of a nefarious conspiracy to “politicize” U.S. intelligence by trying to rid the IC of precisely those officials.
Grenell responded in his letter to Schiff’s charge that IC staff were “politicizing” a briefing on elections to Congress in March, an accusation the ODNI chief hotly contested. The official said that members of his staff were “offended” by Schiff’s insinuations of deception, and he challenged Schiff to provide evidence.
“As the Acting DNI, I am compelled to defend these career officers from unsubstantiated indictments of their motivations and judgment,” Grenell wrote, according to The Hill. “Many are offended by the accusations that they did not share unvarnished assessments. If you share with me the reports you believe provide evidence for these claims, I can promise you that I will review them with the seriousness such accusations demand.”
Grenell, notably, did not address Atkinson’s firing or Schiff’s demand that he clarify whether he had ever interfered in Atkinson’s probes, The Hill reported. The official ended his letter by calling on Schiff to drop the partisan games, in so many words.
“I strongly agree with your statement of a bipartisan legislative commitment to the IC,” he wrote, according to The Hill. “I would hope to see this commitment reflected on the signature line of your future letters.”