Trump Ousts Would-Be Acting Spy Chief

Sue Gordon

Sue Gordon Office of the Director of National Intelligence via AP

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Deputy DNI Susan Gordon was statutorily required to be elevated after DNI Coats resigned in July.

America’s deputy chief of intelligence resigned Thursday, the second senior intelligence leader to leave the Trump administration in the past two weeks. 

Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Susan Gordon was reportedly fired by President Trump “after his allies urged her removal to block her ascension to acting director of national intelligence,” the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. 

Gordon left a handwritten note for Trump “that made clear she was resigning because he wanted her to,” the Journal’s Dustin Volz tweeted with a photo of that note. 

“I offer this letter as an act of respect & patriotism, not preference,” Gordon wrote. “You should have your team. Godspeed, Sue.”

America’s new acting top spy will be Joseph Maguire, who currently directs the National Counterterrorism Center. He will report for duty as acting Director of National Intelligence on Aug. 15, Trump announced in a Thursday tweet. “Mr. Maguire, a retired Navy vice admiral, was confirmed by a Senate voice vote to lead the counterterrorism center last December,” the Journal wrote. 

“Admiral Maguire has a long and distinguished career in the military, retiring from the U.S. Navy in 2010,” the president tweeted at 7:12 p.m. on Thursday. “He commanded at every level, including the Naval Special Warfare Command. He has also served as a National Security Fellow at Harvard University. I have no doubt he will do a great job!”

It’s been 12 days since DNI Dan Coats resigned. The former senator “told Mr. Trump last week that it was time to move on,” the New York Times reported on July 29. “His departure removes one of the most prominent national security officials willing to contradict the president.”

Trump quickly named a replacement, Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, whose main qualification appeared to be his willingness to criticize former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Within days, key senators signaled their displeasure with Ratcliffe and his thin and yet still exaggerated resume, forcing Trump to withdraw his name.

Why oust Gordon? Because federal law says she—as principal deputy director of national intelligence—automatically becomes acting DNI when the incumbent leaves without a formally nominated and confirmed replacement in the wings. 

Gordon enjoyed bipartisan support as a competent intelligence leader with decades of experience.

“She has been a stalwart partner to the Senate Intelligence Committee, and I will miss her candor and deep knowledge of the issues,” Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. 

“A devastating loss,” is what House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., called Coats and Gordon’s departure in a statement on Thursday. “These losses of leadership, coupled with a president determined to weed out anyone who may dare disagree, represent one of the most challenging moments for the Intelligence Community.”

Gordon spoke at Defense One’s Tech Summit in June. Watch her, here.