At the Pentagon, Mr. Miller was upset that agency leadership had slowed Mr. Ellis’ installment payments for months despite having gone through the standard hiring process and been selected for the position, a senior US official said. So, Mr. Miller ordered the agency to swear in Mr. Ellis, a move the Washington Post reported on Saturday.
In a statement, the Pentagon defended Mr. Ellis’ hiring, saying he had been duly selected by the Department of Defense General Counsel. “To be clear, the interest of Congress or the media in any particular recruitment measure is not a justification under the merit system policies and procedures to delay the placement of a selected qualified individual in a position,” the statement said.
Mr. Ellis is seen as a shrewd lawyer. But the urge to get him into a permanent government job puzzled some. According to former officials, he will likely enter the General Counsel’s office under high suspicion and have an uphill battle to win General Nakasone’s trust.
Mr. Ellis will serve on the Senior Executive Service, a public service job that offers strong protection against layoffs. However, officers can easily be transferred to the Department of Defense so that he can get a legal position elsewhere in the sprawling department – for example, overseeing environmental compliance on a remote military base.
While on the Intelligence Committee, Mr. Ellis was a trusted advisor to Rep Devin Nunes, Republican of California. Mr. Ellis served in various roles in the Trump administration, including serving as an attorney for the National Security Council and then as White House executive director for intelligence.
At the White House, Mr. Ellis overturned a career official’s decision to put Mr. Bolton’s book open for publication despite having no formal training in the classification of national security information. The Justice Department, under pressure from President Trump, sued Mr Bolton to recover his profits from the book.
A judge overseeing the case issued a ruling Thursday making it very likely that Mr. Bolton’s attorney Charles J. Cooper could question White House officials like Mr. Ellis about whether the classification decisions were made in bad faith were. Should Mr. Ellis serve as General Counsel at least temporarily, he may be able to withhold this testimony.