Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote a letter to the acting secretary of defense demanding that he not install a Trump loyalist as the top lawyer at the National Security Agency, her office announced Monday.
The action by Ms. Pelosi increases the pressure on the Pentagon to change course and not install Michael Ellis in an important Civil Service job within the intelligence community. It also increases the likelihood that the Biden administration will move Mr. Ellis out of the job, if the Pentagon pushes through with their plans to swear him in on Tuesday.
In the letter, which was sent Sunday after a phone call between Ms. Pelosi and Christopher C. Miller, the acting defense secretary, the speaker said that Mr. Ellis was not qualified for the position of general counsel of the National Security Agency. She requested an investigation of his appointment by the Pentagon inspector general.
“The circumstances and timing — immediately after President Trump’s defeat in the election — of the selection of Mr. Ellis, and this eleventh-hour effort to push this placement in the last three days of this administration are highly suspect,” Ms. Pelosi wrote.
The White House in November pressured the Pentagon general counsel to select Mr. Ellis for the job. He was one of three finalists, but was not the most highly ranked of the candidates, according to people familiar with the process.
The National Security Agency was moving forward getting the proper authorizations for Mr. Ellis, and new security clearances. But Mr. Miller, frustrated by what he saw was the agency’s slow-rolling of the process, ordered Mr. Ellis installed on Saturday.
On Sunday, the National Security Agency announced they had given Mr. Ellis his final job offer. He is set to begin his position Tuesday, the final full day of the Trump administration. Because he has Civil Service protection, Mr. Ellis cannot be easily fired by the Biden administration, although he could be moved to another, less important position.
The National Security Agency on Monday referred questions to the Pentagon. A Pentagon spokesman said they would not comment on communication between members of Congress and department leaders. A senior defense official said that Congressional interest in a hiring decision are not justification to delay placing a qualified person in a post.
Ms. Pelosi said Mr. Ellis is a relatively recent law school graduate and does not have enough experience for the job. In addition to his selection over more qualified career officials, Ms. Pelosi wrote his work as a lawyer for the National Security Council troubled her.
“Mr. Ellis has been reportedly involved in highly questionable activities that are disqualifying,” Ms. Pelosi said.