Arab-American lawyer involved in Trump impeachment to advise Biden on intelligence

Maher Bitar will oversee the stream of information between the White House and US intelligence agencies

The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. President Biden warned the nation to prepare for its darkest days in the yearlong pandemic, predicting that as many as 100,000 more Americans will die over the next month as he overhauls the federal coronavirus response and presses Congress for more aid. Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg
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President Joe Biden has appointed a high-profile Arab-American lawyer to a prominent White House position co-ordinating the stream of information that pours in from the vast US intelligence apparatus.

Maher Bitar, who served as general counsel to Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee and played an important role in former president Donald Trump's first impeachment, will assume the post of senior director for intelligence on Mr Biden's National Security Council, Politico reported on Friday.  His family is of Palestinian origin.

“I am thrilled to see him in his new post, though we will certainly miss him on the committee,” House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff told Politico. “I can’t think of anyone more suited to the role than Maher.”

Mr Bitar was one of the lawyers who shepherded Mr Trump's first impeachment through the House following his alleged attempts to use foreign aid to pressure Ukraine into investigating Mr Biden's family.

Before moving to Capitol Hill during the Trump administration, Mr Bitar served as the director for Israeli-Palestinian affairs on the National Security Council under former president Barack Obama. Prior to that, he was the deputy to Samantha Power when she served as the National Security Council director for multilateral affairs and human rights.

He has also worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Malaysia as well as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East in Jerusalem.

Mr Bitar obtained his law degree from Georgetown University and is also a graduate of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.

Robert Malley, who is reportedly under consideration to become Mr Biden’s special envoy to Iran, praised Mr Bitar’s appointment.

Ziad Asali, the founder of the American Task Force on Palestine, offered similar praise.

The Senate overwhelmingly confirmed Avril Haines as Mr Biden's director of national intelligence, a Cabinet-level position, in an 84-10 vote on Wednesday. Mr Bitar will work closely with Ms Haines in his new position to ensure that Mr Biden receives accurate and credible intelligence updates.