Ex-lawmaker 'spooked' by Trump's pick to head intel agencies: 'This creates an enormous risk to our country'
Richard Grenell, U.S. Ambassador to Germany, delivers remarks on June 15, 2018, in Kiel, Germany, for Kiel Week. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Justin Stumberg/Released)

A former Democratic congresswoman was "spooked" by President Donald Trump's choice for acting director of national intelligence -- a position she helped create after 9/11.


Trump tapped German ambassador Richard Grenell -- who has no background in intelligence -- to oversee U.S. spy agencies, and former congresswoman Jane Harman warned in a New York Times column that his inexperience would endanger national security.

"With acting cabinet secretaries everywhere, the Departments of Homeland Security and State hollowed out, and the recent departure of high-profile, nonpolitical appointees on the National Security Council staff," Harman wrote, "the judgment and experience about who wants to attack us and where is basically gone. This creates an enormous risk to our country."

Grenell was appointed after the president reportedly became angry that a senior intelligence official notified Congress that Russia was interfering in the 2020 election on his behalf, and Harman said Trump's politicization of intelligence created an enormous risk.

"Allied services also won’t trust us if our own officers face constant pressure to politicize intelligence," wrote Harman, who was the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and the Homeland Security Committee's intelligence subcommittee. "That means reporting streams will dry up, we won’t get early warning on planned attacks and we will lose critical knowledge about the decisions adversaries are making that may not have consequences today, but could have huge ones in the next decade."

Harman warned that Grenell's appointment signaled a coming purge of officials who aren't willing to tell the president what he wants to hear.

"A so-called house clearing could damage our intelligence abilities for at least a generation," Harman wrote. "Recruitment and retention will of course plummet, and those officers and analysts left won’t have the mentorship or the experience to ensure our assessments are based on truth."