There's a limited universe of national security officials who enjoy the enthusiastic support of congressional Democrats and Republicans. Sue Gordon, the principal deputy director of national intelligence, is one of them.
With this in mind, after Donald Trump parted ways with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who made the mistake of saying true things to a president who didn't want to hear them, congressional leaders encouraged the White House to elevate his second in command. By some accounts, Coats personally urged the president to give Gordon the job, putting her in a position overseeing the U.S. intelligence agencies -- a task she was qualified and prepared to do.
Trump chose a different course.
Sue Gordon, a career CIA official who is serving as the principal deputy director of national intelligence, told the White House she would leave her job on Thursday after she learned she would be passed over as director of national intelligence.
In a handwritten note to President Donald Trump, Gordon wrote: "Mr. President -- I offer this letter as an act of respect & patriotism, not preference. You should have your team. Godspeed, Sue."
The use of the phrase "not preference" left little doubt that Gordon's change in career plans was not altogether voluntary.
Soon after, the president announced -- via Twitter, naturally -- that Joseph Maguire, the current director of the National Counterterrorism Center, would serve as the acting director of national intelligence. As the Associated Press noted, Maguire had "a long and distinguished career in the military," though his background in intelligence work is limited.
Common sense suggests it might've been a good idea to keep someone like Sue Gordon around to assist with the transition between ODNI leaders, but Trump nevertheless showed her the door.
A Washington Post report added that the president "was reluctant to keep someone with whom he had never formed a close bond." Trump and his team also apparently "regarded her as a career official and consequently suspicious."
All of which helps reinforce the absurdity of the circumstances.