House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling on the acting defense secretary to “immediately cease” plans to install so-called “Trump loyalist” Michael Ellis as the new general counsel for the National Security Agency (NSA) just days before President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated, describing the decision as “highly suspect” and a threat to the national security of the country.
In a letter Sunday addressed to acting Department of Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller, Pelosi also called for an investigation into alleged “irregularities” in the NSA General Counsel selection process, arguing that Ellis, “a relatively recent law school graduate with a limited resume, was selected due to interference by the White House, and was chosen over much more qualified candidates.”
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“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 wrote. “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.”
Pelosi also raised concerns that Ellis had reportedly been “involved in highly questionable activities that are disqualifying — including the infamous 2017 ‘midnight run’ to launder intelligence information through Rep. Devin Nunes and with efforts to shield information about President Trump’s July 2019 call with the President of Ukraine.”
Ellis served as chief counsel for Nunes, R-Calif., during his time as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, The Washington Post reported.
Nunes’ office did not immediately return Fox News’ request for comment on Tuesday.
Ellis held several positions in the Trump administration, including serving as an attorney for the National Security Council and the White House’s senior director for intelligence, The New York Times reported.
Pelosi’s letter states that the “NSA General Counsel, which involves supervising many intelligence community attorneys and interacting with intelligence agencies, is a highly sensitive career position for which candidates are selected, based on merit and free from political influence.” If Ellis did go through the traditional civil service hiring process, Pelosi also requested “a detailed account of that process, to understand how someone with his credentials was chosen over other qualified candidates.”
The letter was sent a day after Miller on Saturday instructed NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone to immediately place Ellis in the role of general counsel by 6 p.m. — but the move was temporarily delayed, The Washington Post reported.
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On Sunday, the NSA said in a statement that Ellis “accepted his final job offer yesterday afternoon” and the national-level intelligence agency “is moving forward with his employment.” Ellis is expected to begin his duties Tuesday, a day before the presidential inauguration.
The NSA also did not immediately return Fox News’ request for comment Tuesday.
The Pentagon seemingly rejected Pelosi questioning the integrity of the Department of Defense’s civil service selection process, explaining that once a candidate is selected through the merit system, meets the job requirements and accepts an offer, if the person is not installed, “it exposes the department, agency and senior leadership to claims for a violation of the merit system principles and processes.”
“To be clear, congressional or media interest in a particular hiring action are not justification under the merit system principles and process to delay placing a selected qualified individual in a position,” Russell Goemaere, a public affairs officer for the Pentagon, said in a statement.
“The General Counsel of the Department of Defense is the sole selection authority for the position of General Counsel of the National Security Agency — as well as all other senior career DoD General Counsel positions,” his statement added. “The Director of the NSA does not select or approve of candidates for the position of the NSA General Counsel.”
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Department of Defense General Counsel Paul C. Ney Jr. first hired Ellis in November. At that time, Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Jack Reed also requested an investigation into the matter.
Former NSA general counsels have been connected to the Obama administration. For example, Glenn Gerstell, who served from 2015 to 2020, raised $50,000 for the Obama campaign in 2012, the Post reported. His predecessor, Raj De, previously served as Obama’s White House staff secretary.