Battle erupts as Trump considers NSA chief for top intelligence post

President-elect Donald Trump listens to questions from the press as he exits the clubhouse after a day of meetings at Trump International Golf Club, November 19, 2016 in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. 

A top lawmaker in Congress demanded answers after a behind the scenes dispute over the head of the National Security Agency burst into full view this weekend, with news reports indicating President Obama was being urged to fire NSA chief Admiral Michael Rogers, just as Rogers was being considered by President-elect Donald Trump for a major promotion to the job of Director of National Intelligence.

After Adm. Rogers met with President-Elect Trump on Thursday in New York, Rogers seemed to be the front runner for the DNI post, which is currently held by James Clapper, who announced on Thursday that he will leave the job at the end of the Obama Administration.

A senior intelligence official had told me on Friday that Rogers was “solid choice” for DNI, someone who had a lot of experience dealing with intelligence matters – in sum, a good pick for Trump.

“He knows the IC (Intelligence Community) better than other potential selections,” I was told.

But suddenly, the knives came out for the NSA chief, as the Washington Post reported that Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and DNI Clapper had urged the White House last month to remove Rogers from his job.

The Post article noted that Rogers had met with Mr. Trump on Thursday without notifying his superiors, reportedly angering officials inside the Intelligence Community, as the Post report said that DNI Clapper was specifically the one who wanted Rogers booted.



But on Saturday, an official with close ties to Clapper explicitly denied that the DNI was trying to get rid of Rogers, further clouding the dispute.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, the head of the House Intelligence Committee requested an immediate explanation of what looked like the airing of dirty laundry about someone who might move up in the Trump Administration.
In a letter to both Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and DNI Clapper, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) stuck up for Adm. Rogers, and demanded to know more about the inside leaks to the Post and other news organizations.
“I am asking you to provide a full explanation of the allegations contained in the Post article,” Nunes wrote in his letter.

In his letter, Nunes made clear he is a big supporter of Rogers, as he vowed to hold a public hearing on the internal intelligence spat.

“I have been consistently impressed with his leadership and accomplishments,” Nunes said of Rogers.

“I know other members of Congress hold him in similarly high esteem,” the California Republican added.



It wasn’t clear what impact – if any – the inside maneuvering would have on Rogers, who has been seen as the leading candidate for the DNI position in a Trump Administration.