Trump decided to replace his top spy chief after his aide told Congress that Russia is interfering in 2020 to help Trump win

  • President Donald Trump decided to replace Joseph Maguire as his top acting intelligence official after Maguire authorized an aide to brief Congress about Russia's 2020 election interference, which enraged the president, according to The Washington Post.

  • Trump reportedly falsely believed that the official who briefed Congress at Maguire's direction had been disloyal by feeding exclusive information about election interference to Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

  • During the briefing, the aide told lawmakers Russia was attempting to interfere in the 2020 election to help get Trump reelected, according to The New York Times.

  • Trump replaced Maguire with Richard Grenell, a fierce loyalist who has served as the US ambassador to Germany and has no background in intelligence work.

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President Donald Trump replaced Joseph Maguire as his acting director of national intelligence after Maguire enraged Trump by authorizing a congressional briefing on Russia's election interference, according to The Washington Post and The New York Times.

After the classified briefing, Trump brought Maguire into the Oval Office for a "dressing down," The Post reported.

The president also had been led to falsely believe that Shelby Pierson, the aide who briefed Congress, had been disloyal by feeding exclusive information about Russia's 2020 election interference to Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Schiff served as the lead House impeachment manager during Trump's Senate trial, and the president often attacks him and suggests he is guilty of treason, which is punishable by death.

The Times reported that lawmakers were told Russia is interfering in the 2020 election specifically to get Trump reelected. The president is concerned that Democrats will use that information against him as the campaign season kicks into high gear, according to The Times.

According to The Post, the briefing was the "catalyst" for the president's decision to replace Maguire with Richard Grenell, a controversial figure and fierce loyalist who has served as the US ambassador to Germany.

Grenell has no experience or background in intelligence but is now charged with overseeing the 17 agencies that make up the US intelligence community.

Richard Grenell
Richard Grenell.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Maguire made headlines last year for his role in overseeing the transmission of an anonymous whistleblower complaint against Trump to Congress. The complaint accused the president of soliciting foreign interference in the upcoming election by pressuring the Ukrainian government to launch investigations targeting former Vice President Joe Biden, who at the time was the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Michael Atkinson, the intelligence-community inspector general, determined that the complaint was urgent and credible, which means Maguire was legally mandated to turn it over to the House Intelligence Committee.

But after consulting with the Justice Department and White House officials, Maguire determined he was not required to turn over the document because it related to a person — Trump — who is not under the director of national intelligence's jurisdiction.

Maguire eventually released the complaint to Congress in September after a fierce tug-of-war with House Democrats and Schiff, who publicly revealed its existence days earlier.

Federal law limits how long cabinet officials can serve in an acting capacity, and Maguire would have been required to leave his post by March 11. But the president was considering offering him the permanent role as his spy chief until Maguire angered Trump by authorizing the congressional briefing on Russia's election meddling, The Post reported.

The president has often expressed doubts about Russia's interference in the 2016 US presidential election, and he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate a bogus conspiracy theory alleging that Ukraine interfered in the election.

Trump has continued to exhibit skepticism, despite ongoing warnings from the US intelligence community about the potential for Russia, among other countries, to interfere in the 2020 election.

The US intelligence community, which the president has repeatedly expressed animosity toward over the course of his tenure, concluded with high confidence in 2017 that Russia interfered in 2016 to propel Trump to the Oval Office.

The Senate Intelligence Committee in July 2018 released a report backing up the intelligence community's findings.

In October, the committee released a report urging Trump to "reinforce with the public the danger" posed by foreign election interference leading up to the 2020 election.

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