It is in this context that the Trump administration, and specifically acting defense secretary Christopher Miller, an apparent incompetent who remains accused by Joe Biden and his team of withholding key national security information during the transition, is suddenly ordering the immediate installation of a hard-right ex-Devin Nunes aide and fervent Trump ally Michael Ellis as National Security Agency general counsel.
That’s big news. It is a career civil service position, and one that Ellis is dubiously qualified for; the move is transparently to install a Trump loyalist into the very top ranks of the NSA’s non-appointed leadership, giving that loyalist top access to this nation’s secrets and information about how they are acquired. From this position, Ellis can continue his longstanding efforts to sabotage any national security investigation that too closely implicates Donald Trump, Donald Trump’s numerous allies, or others in the party’s growing collection of seditionists and extortionists.
While this sounds like an extremist interpretation, it is also likely to be the correct one. Ellis is no minor figure. He was responsible for moving the phone records of Donald Trump’s attempted extortion of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to a codeword-classified server, an attempt to hide evidence from government whistleblowers and to Congress, and was among those officials who stonewalled congressional probes into those acts. He was previously behind Rep. Devin Nunes’ bizarre 2017 invitation to the White House, where Ellis showed Nunes intelligence reports selectively leaked to build the lie that the Trump campaign was being improperly surveilled by intelligence officials—an attempt to delegitimize the counterintelligence investigations into Russian espionage efforts to install Trump into the presidency.
That each of these actions by Ellis was an attempt to immunize Trump and Trump’s allies from charges of conspiring with a foreign government to commit a criminal act should be noted. A position as the NSA’s general counsel puts him in superb position to continue that sabotage.
While investigations into Ellis’ acts on Trump’s behalf may yet render him something very close to a traitor, he has definitely been a key player in numerous of those criminal and possibly-criminal acts. That is who the White House, with assistance from acting secretary of defense Miller, is ordering into a top NSA position in the very last days of their power to do so.
We all know why. There is no non-malignant justification for the rapid “burrowing” of a top Republican enabler of crimes into a top career position in which he will have broad authority to block investigations of national security threats that happen to touch on Republican officials. The Republican coup against our democracy continues, and shows no signs of slowing.