Administration officials say President Trump is planning on appointing his friend Stephen A. Feinberg, the billionaire co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management, to lead a review of U.S. intelligence agencies, The New York Times reported Wednesday night.
Feinberg is also close to Stephen Bannon, Trump's chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law. Trump has railed against the intelligence agencies since his campaign days, and on Wednesday he accused them of being the reason why Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, resigned. (Trump actually asked him to step down after it was publicly reported that he had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. and lied about it.)
Intelligence agents told The Times they are concerned that a review conducted by a Trump ally will curtail their independence. Trump's nominee for director of national intelligence, former Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), is said to be especially angry over the move, which he views as an attempt to marginalize him before he's even confirmed. The White House has not announced the broad intelligence review and would not comment, but Feinberg did tell his company's shareholders that he is in discussions to join the administration.
Feinberg was reportedly also considered for two high-profile jobs — director of national intelligence and chief of the CIA's clandestine service, positions that are traditionally given to career intelligence officers and not friends of the president — and there is concern that this appointment is a first step toward placing him in a top intelligence position. As The Times wryly notes, Feinberg doesn't have any national security experience, but his private equity firm does have stakes in a private security company and two gun makers.