The United States’ top intelligence official submitted his letter of resignation on Wednesday evening, leaving President-elect Trump another immediate vacancy to fill.
It also means that Trump will have the option to build his own network of intelligence leaders.
“I submitted my letter of resignation last night, which felt pretty good,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday morning. He was responding to the top Democrat on the panel joking that he hoped Clapper would stay for another four years. “I have 64 days left and I would have a hard time with my wife for anything past that.”
Clapper’s resignation was not unexpected, however, as he has long said that he would leave his job at the end of President Barack Obama’s term in office.
Trump’s transition is off to a rocky start. There are several national security nominations and appointments which have yet to be made, although multiple names have been leaked as potential contenders. Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the Trump transition team is one of the names that have been floated to possibly lead the CIA or become Director of National Intelligence.
Other possible candidates for the post are Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R- MI) who has served on the Intelligence Committee in the past; and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, one of Trump’s early supporters and closest advisors, a highly controversial figure due to his fringe views, has also surfaced as a potential for several national security roles. It is likely that Flynn will ultimately be to a position that Trump can appoint as it is unlikely that the Senate would confirm him.
Clapper was appointed by President Obama to oversee 17 intelligence agencies in 2010. He has said that in his 50 years of military and intelligence service, he has never seen the breadth of threats facing the U.S. as he does today. “Our nation is facing the most diverse array of threats that I’ve seen,” he told the committee on Thursday. “I will leave this job concerned about the impact of so-called lone wolves and home grown violent extremism. That is a very complex problem.