Biden to name another Obama veteran as CIA deputy director

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Martin Matishak
·3 min read
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President-elect Joe Biden on Friday will announce his plan to appoint David Cohen to be CIA deputy director, according to a transition official.

A partner at D.C.-based law firm WilmerHale, Cohen previously served as the spy agency’s deputy director from 2015 to 2017. He had been a contender to helm the nation’s premier intelligence agency in the new administration until earlier this week, when Biden announced his intent to nominate former Ambassador William Burns for the role of CIA director.

During his time at Langley, Cohen helped establish a joint task force that examined Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Before leaving the agency, he was awarded the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the CIA’s highest honor.

He also enjoyed a brief cameo as an extra on HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

Cohen previously served in the Treasury Department, where he helped devise sanction regimes against Iran and Moscow.

Obama alumni association: Like Burns, Cohen joins the ranks of former Obama administration officials who have been tapped to serve in senior national security roles under Biden. They also include Avril Haines, the nominee for director of national intelligence, whom Cohen succeeded as No. 2 at CIA.

Haines was originally slated to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday for her confirmation hearing, but the session was canceled late Thursday night after a panel Republican objected to holding the meeting virtually.

“Despite the unusual circumstances on Capitol Hill, the committee is working in good faith to move this nominee as fast as possible and ensure the committee's members have an opportunity to question the nominee in both open and closed settings,” panel leaders Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in a joint statement.

The DNI “plays a crucial role in overseeing the 18 agencies that make up our nation’s Intelligence Community, and the committee looks forward to holding a hearing next week with Ms. Haines,” the pair added.

Other notable Obama veterans tapped by Biden include Antony Blinken as secretary of State, Lloyd Austin as secretary of Defense and Alejandro Mayorkas as secretary of Homeland Security. All three are scheduled to have confirmation hearings next week.

Decrying Trump's 'pressure': Last year, Cohen, Haines and former acting CIA director and deputy director Michael Morell wrote a piece about President Donald Trump's politicization of the U.S. intelligence community, noting that a number of officials had been pushed out "due to their perceived lack of loyalty to this president and their unwillingness to act on the basis of political pressure."

The pressure "is having an impact; the intelligence community is becoming politicized,” the trio wrote. They added that “not a single intelligence community leader said a word publicly” when former U.S. Attorney Joe diGenova, a Trump ally, called the whistleblower who prompted the first impeachment proceedings against Trump a "presidential assassin, the equivalent, he said, of John Wilkes Booth.”

Senior leaders “presumably were fearful of a reaction from Trump, but their silence sent its own message to the intelligence workforce regarding their willingness to appease the president.”