Jake Tapper at ABC News with the scoop:
ABC News has learned that President Obama will replace the Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair (ret.) His resignation will come as soon as tomorrow, sources tell ABC News.
For several weeks President Obama has been holding serious conversations about whether to ask Blair to step down and has interviewed candidates to replace him. After a discussion this afternoon between the president and Blair in the Oval Office about the best way forward, Blair offered to resign and the president said he would accept, sources told ABC News.
Multiple administration sources tell ABC News that Blair’s tenure internally has been a rocky one.
On the heels of a number of intelligence failures involving the Fort Hood shooter, failed Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmuttalab, and questions about failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, it was no longer clear that Blair — tasked with coordinating the 16 intelligence agencies and ensuring that they cooperate and share information – still had the full and complete confidence of the president, sources say.
The news will not come as a surprise to those in the intelligence community. For months, Blair has turf battles while the White House made it clear that it had more confidence in others, such as counterterrorism and homeland security adviser John Brennan, taking the lead both publicly and privately.
Sam Youngman at The Hill:
The Associated Press was also reporting that a source confirmed Blair would resign.
ABC is reporting that Obama has already interviewed several candidates to replace Blair, and the announcement of his resignation could come as soon as Friday.
The network said Blair has been out of the loop with the Obama administration in the wake of questions raised by the Fort Hood shooting, the attempted Christmas airline bombing over Detroit and the attempted Times Square bombing.
Blair told the Senate Homeland Security Committee in January that he should not have given in to pressure to reduce the passenger no-fly list before the attempted Christmas Day bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253.
“The pressure on the no-fly list was to make them smaller … shame on us for giving in to that pressure,” Blair told the panel.
Blair has been at the helm of the office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees coordination among the nation’s 16 intelligence agencies, since shortly after Obama took office.
Blair has worn his welcome at the White House. The National Security Staff lost confidence in his ability to prioritize and to solve the intelligence community’s mammoth bureaucratic hassles. The U.S. official said that the White House has interviewed “several strong candidates.” Former Sen. Chuck Hagel, the chairman of the president’s intelligence advisory board, and Gen. James Clapper (Ret.), the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, are seen by other intelligence officials as top candidates. Clapper will face a tough confirmation, and his career profile is similar to Blair’s. Hagel would be feared by the military intelligence establishment, but he gets along with CIA director Leon Panetta, who will not be leaving his job. More later …
Spencer Ackerman at The Washington Independent:
Assuming the report pans out — and I doubt it wouldn’t — it’s telling that President Obama will have fired an intelligence chief after several low-grade attempted terrorist attacks failed but President Bush didn’t fire his after a major domestic terrorist attack succeeded.
Daniel Foster at The Corner:
Quick take: Whatever his other flaws, there is no question Blair was in part a victim of the post-9/11 intelligence “reforms” that made the U.S. intelligence and national security structures even more byzantine and balkanized than they already were. Since it now appears that CIA Director Leon Panetta won the turf war with Blair, whoever Obama taps to replace Blair will have to get wise to the food chain.
Exit question: Shouldn’t Obama consider a Republican as Blair’s successor? The left will scream because that’s what the left does (“he thinks we can’t be trusted to fight terror!”) but it’d actually be a shrewd move politically. The next time the system fails somehow, there’s a convenient scapegoat from the other party in place to take most of the heat. Which, needless to say, will complicate the GOP’s message on Democrats being weak on terror this fall. Obama’s got a track record too of squeezing political gain out of his appointments. Remember how he knocked Jon Huntsman out of the national conversation by making him ambassador to China?