N.S.A. Installs Trump Loyalist as Top Lawyer Days Before Biden Takes Office

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At the Pentagon, Mr. Miller was angry that the agency’s leadership had slow-rolled Mr. Ellis’s installment for months despite his going through the standard hiring process and being selected for the position, a senior U.S. official said. So Mr. Miller ordered the agency to swear Mr. Ellis in, a move The Washington Post reported on Saturday.

Mr. Ellis is seen as a smart lawyer. But the push to install him in a permanent government job puzzled some. According to former officials, he is likely to enter the general counsel’s office under a good deal of suspicion and will have an uphill battle to win the confidence of General Nakasone.

Mr. Ellis will be a member of the Senior Executive Service, a Civil Service job that has strong protections against firing. However, civil servants can be easily moved in the Defense Department, so he could be given a legal job elsewhere in the sprawling department — overseeing compliance with environmental regulations at a remote military base, for example.

When he was on the Intelligence Committee, Mr. Ellis was a trusted adviser to Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California. Mr. Ellis held various roles in the Trump administration, including serving as a lawyer for the National Security Council and then the White House’s senior director for intelligence.

At the White House, Mr. Ellis overruled the decision by a career official to clear Mr. Bolton’s book for publication, even though he had no formal training in the classification of national security information. The Justice Department, under pressure from President Trump, sued Mr. Bolton to recoup his profits from the book.

A judge overseeing the case issued a ruling on Thursday that makes it highly likely that Mr. Bolton’s lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, can question White House officials like Mr. Ellis about whether the classification decisions were made in bad faith. Should Mr. Ellis take over as general counsel, at least for a time, he may be able to stall that testimony.

Early in Mr. Trump’s term, Mr. Ellis provided Mr. Nunes intelligence reports that associates of Mr. Trump were swept up in foreign surveillance by American intelligence agencies. The material is at the heart of Mr. Trump’s frequent accusation that the Obama administration spied on his campaign.

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