Six months ago, Ric Grenell was the nation’s top intelligence official and had access to some of the most highly sensitive information on the planet.
Now, he’s wailing on Twitter about President Donald Trump’s loss in Nevada, alleging electoral fraud on a scale so widespread that it would flip the state to Trump — just without any evidence whatsoever to back up the claim.
“It is unacceptable in this country to have illegal votes counted, and that is what’s happening in the state of Nevada,” Grenell, clad in a “Team Trump” jacket, told reporters in Las Vegas two days after Election Day.
Grenell refused to answer questions while also chastising reporters for asking the campaign for evidence of the outlandish voter fraud claims it was making.
“All of your questions about the details are legitimate questions … and they should be asked of Clark County,” he said.
“What’s your name!” the press shouted at Grenell as he left the mics.
“Listen, you’re here to take in information,” he replied. Cue press corps laughter. A few minutes later, the crew fled the scene, shutting a van door in the face of MSNBC’s Jacob Soboroff as he asked for evidence.
NBC’s Jacob Soboroff chases down Trump campaign officials Ric Grenell and Matt Schlapp, pressing them for evidence of their claims of fraud in Nevada.
They provide none and pile into a van: pic.twitter.com/tZlFDDQSQT
— The Recount (@therecount) November 5, 2020
‘Fundamentally Undermining Faith In Democracy’
The rapid transition back to in-the-muck, norm-defying, alternate-reality-crafting, Trumpworld politics for Grenell is unprecedented for a former director of national intelligence, even for someone in a short-lived “acting” position.
But this is the sort of work that’s marked his long career in public life: the sharp-elbowed press person, waging rhetorical war against his clients’ enemies. Now, for Trump, those enemies are elections officials.
“I think he’s fundamentally undermining faith in democracy and our institutions, and he’s doing so in order to assuage, and keep in good graces with, President Trump,” said Mark Groombridge, who worked with Grenell at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations during the Bush administration.
Since hopping on the Trump train, the former friend said, Grenell has grown more acerbic.
“He’ll yell at people for very silly things,” he said. “ If you look at his Twitter feed now, it’s a constant rant on the mainstream media.”
Grenell’s latest kick has focused on Clark Country, Nevada’s largest, which he’s said “threw out 153k ballots” and is re-doing a county commission race because of “fraud.” If that race’s results can’t be trusted, he asserted Wednesday, “how are they so certain that that fraud didn’t bleed into all of the other races on the ballot?!”
The answer to that particular query is pretty straightforward, as a county spokesperson explained to Grenell on Twitter: There was a 10-vote difference in that county race and 139 discrepancies in total in the commission district. Biden won the Nevada by more than 33,000 votes, but the Trump campaign is still suing for all of Nevada’s electors.
Not accurate. We have referred cases of potential fraud to the state. We take such matters seriously. Today, the @ClarkCountyNV Commission opted to hold a special election in 1 race where there was a 10-vote difference & more than 10 discrepancies. It's not a question of fraud
— Erik Pappa (@epappa) November 17, 2020
‘Washington, D.C. Phony!’
Even as acting DNI, Grenell played politics with the job. A few days before the Senate confirmed his replacement, Grenell declassified the names of Obama officials involved in the “unmasking” of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn — a gift to the right-wing fever swamps.
John Sipher, who spent decades in the CIA Clandestine Service, called Grenell’s actions “a threat to our national security in the short run, and to the credibility and professionalism of our non-partisan national security structures in the long run.”
But since leaving government, he’s dug his trench in Trump’s war on the election, whiffing on some basic facts along the way.
On Nov. 1, for example, Grenell posted a photo of Joe Biden on a plane without a mask, calling Biden a “Washington, D.C. phony!” for his hypocrisy. The photo, turns out, was taken in 2019.
Ten days later, Grenell was duped by The Nation’s Ken Klippenstein into sending Veteran’s Day wishes to Bill Calley, the infamous war criminal who carried out the Mỹ Lai massacre.
Happy Veterans Day! pic.twitter.com/cotDkDUGs6
— Ken Klippenstein (@kenklippenstein) November 11, 2020
Fox News first reported in August that Grenell had been hired as a senior adviser to the Republican Party. FEC records show Grenell was paid a $45,000 for “management consulting” by the RNC in July and August.
‘He’s A Right-Wing Troll’
The RNC hiring news came the day after the Log Cabin Republicans, the GOP LGBT group, published a video in which Grenell called Trump “the most pro-gay president in American history.”
“My great honor!!!” Trump responded.
My great honor!!! https://t.co/kh2a5yumef
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 20, 2020
The following week, in a strange twist of fate, Grenell took a job as an adviser at the American Center for Law and Justice, the right-wing religious group led by Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow and founded by the homophobe Pat Robertson. ACLJ helped draft Defense of Marriage Act and opposed courts’ expansions of gay rights for decades, the Advocate noted.
“I have admired their work for years,” Grenell said of the organization in a press release.
Around the same time, Grenell added fuel to the “Russian collusion hoax” flame he kindled as acting DNI. Speaking at the Republican National Convention on Aug. 26, Grenell said he’d seen the Democrats’ case for “Russian collusion” first-hand as acting director of national intelligence — “and what I saw made me sick to my stomach.”
“The awful thing is he’s not an intelligence official,” Sipher said. “He’s a right-wing troll that Trump stuck in the position to do his bidding. He had no qualifications or experience.”
At the time, when a second Trump term seemed possible, speculation flew about Grenell’s prospects. Axios reported after his RNC speech that aides expected Grenell to be at the “front of the line” for top jobs, including national security adviser or secretary of state.
Now, Groombridge figures Grenell will have a prominent role in whatever post-presidency Trump plans Trump is cooking up.
Grenell, he said, “has passed the most important test for Trump World, and that’s loyalty.”