Trump’s NSA pick Michael Ellis placed on administration leave as DOD inspector general probes appointment

Trump’s NSA pick Michael Ellis placed on administration leave as DOD inspector general probes appointment
Image via Screengrab.

During former President Donald Trump's final days in office, he chose loyalist Michael Ellis as general counsel for the National Security Agency. But according to a CNN source, Ellis was placed on administrative leave on Wednesday, January 20 — the day of President Joe Biden's inauguration — because his appointment is now being investigated by the office of the U.S. Department of Defense's inspector general.

CNN reporters Zachary Cohen and Paul LeBlanc note that on Sunday, January 17, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller and wrote, "I ask that you immediately cease plans to improperly install Michael Ellis as the new NSA General Counsel."

Pelosi, in her letter to Miller, called for an investigation "into the circumstances of the NSA general counsel selection process." The Democratic House speaker wrote, "The circumstances and timing — immediately after President Trump's defeat in the election — of the selection of Mr. Ellis, and this eleventh-hour effort to push this placement in the last three days of this administration are highly suspect."

Pelosi, who CC'd Department of Defense Acting Inspector General Sean O'Donnell, went on to say, "Further, the efforts to install him or 'burrow' him into a highly sensitive intelligence position 72 hours prior to the beginning of a new administration manifest a disturbing disregard for our national security. Therefore, this placement should not move forward."

Ellis officially started as NSA general counsel on January 19, Trump's last full day as president. Cohen and LeBlanc explain, "The last-minute installation of Ellis drew considerable scrutiny because the role of general counsel at the country's largest intelligence agency is a civil service position, not a political role, meaning it could be difficult for the Biden Administration to remove Ellis. The strategy of trying to install political loyalists into career positions is known as 'burrowing' in the government."

Prior to joining the Trump Administration, the Trump loyalist served as head counsel for Rep. Devin Nunes — a far-right conspiracy theorist and a staunch Trump supporter.

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.