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Departures

Trump's NSA general counsel Michael Ellis resigns, never having taken office

Michael Ellis, a former Republican operative tapped as general counsel at the National Security Agency in the final months of the Trump administration, resigned Friday after spending three months on administrative leave.

Former President Donald Trump's acting defense secretary had ordered NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone to accept Ellis' appointment as general counsel, and Nakasone agreed days before Trump left office, The Washington Post reported. The day Trump left the White House and Ellis was scheduled to start his new job, Nakasone placed him on administrative leave, citing a Pentagon inspector general investigation and inquiry into how Ellis handled classified information. The inspector general's investigation is still open, Nakasone told a House committee last Thursday.

"I have been on administrative leave for nearly three months without any explanation or updates, and there is no sign that NSA will attempt to resolve the issue," Ellis said in his resignation letter to Nakasone on Friday, the Post reports. "I therefore resign my position, effective immediately."

Ellis was general counsel to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) before he joined the Trump White House in early 2017 as a National Security Council lawyer. His appointment to the NSA "raised concerns among Democrats and national security experts that it was an attempt by the Trump administration to install a loyalist in a sensitive and senior position — one with visibility into the activities of other U.S. spy agencies," the Post reports. The NSA general counsel job doesn't require Senate confirmation.