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Richard Grenell shuts down Adam Schiff's attempt to control intel staffing decisions

The acting director of national intelligence told Schiff to stay in his own lane

Acting DNI Richard Grenell (Milos Miskov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)/Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)( William B. Plowman/NBC)

Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell shut down the recent attempt of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) to control the director's staffing decisions, sending the congressman a letter reminding him of the separation between the legislative and executive branches of government.

What are the details?

Earlier this month, Schiff — who led the impeachment effort against President Donald Trump — wrote a letter to Grenell, a Trump loyalist, expressing his "concern" that Grenell was "pursuing organizational and personnel changes at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence without consulting and seeking authorization from Congress in a manner that undermines critical intelligence functions."

Schiff expressed concern over the firing of former DNI Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who delivered the whistleblower complaint to Congress that triggered the president's impeachment.

According to Grenell, Schiff's letter was obtained by the media before it even hit his desk. The DNI tweeted at the time, "These press leaks politicizing the intelligence community must stop."

Grenell wrote Schiff a response on Monday, in a letter described by CBS News's Catherine Herridge as "combative."

The DNI began by thanking Schiff for his "suggestions for reforming the Office of the Director of National Intelligence," before expressing his "surprise" that Schiff did not acknowledge "the historic appointment of the first female Director of the National Counterterrorism Center."

"Instead," Grenell wrote, "You expressed concerns regarding the retirement of the former male Director."

Grenell went to on tell Schiff, "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 oversight with a mandate for IC administration."

He explained, "Career IC officials have conducted four studies in the last two years calling for reforms at the ODNI, and the career officials are eager to implement the recommendations. It is my duty to listen to these ODNI career employees who have ideas on how to improve the work we do for the American people."

"Going forward," Grenell suggested to Schiff, "I encourage you 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 closed his letter by taking a hit at Schiff for being the sole signatory on the letter he sent representing his committee, telling the chairman, "Lastly, I strongly agree with your statement of a bipartisan legislative commitment to the IC. I would hope to see this commitment reflected on the signature line of your future letters."

How did Schiff react?

According to Politico, Schiff issued a statement on Tuesday in reaction to Grenell's letter, saying:

In his letter, Acting Director Grenell did not respond in any way to our oversight requests regarding the decision to fire the IC IG, sudden staffing changes at the NCTC, and his pursuit of structural and personnel changes at the ODNI without the approval of Congress.

And the Acting Director failed to respond to important questions about whether [DNI inspector general Michael Atkinson] was investigating matters that may go uninvestigated as a result of his firing by Trump. The simple fact he was not willing to respond to a reasonable request form his agency's oversight committee raises new basis for our concerns, particularly given this Administration's history of covering up blatant misconduct.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence owes us, and the Senate as well, answers to these questions. We remain ready to work with ODNI to ensure compliance with our oversight requests, consistent with its legal obligation to keep the Committee fully and currently informed of its activities.
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