Trump says he will nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe to be director of national intelligence

Political Connection

(CNN) — President Donald Trump said on Friday that he intends to nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe, a Republican from Texas, as his permanent director of national intelligence, the second time the President has attempted to make the loyalist lawmaker his spy chief.

“I am pleased to announce the nomination of @RepRatcliffe (Congressman John Ratcliffe) to be Director of National Intelligence (DNI),” Trump said on Twitter. “Would have completed process earlier, but John wanted to wait until after IG Report was finished. John is an outstanding man of great talent!”

Ratcliffe had been nominated as Trump’s DNI pick after Dan Coats stepped down from the post in July 2019, but the Texas congressman withdrew his name from consideration after lawmakers from both parties raised concerns about his qualifications. CNN reported earlier this week that the President was once again considering Ratcliffe to be the permanent director.

Trump appointed his ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, as acting director earlier this month but had to formally nominate a candidate for the permanent job by March 11 or Grenell would have to step down from the acting role. Nominating Ratcliffe allows Grenell to stay on as acting DNI for a longer term.

It remains to be seen if Senate Republicans will vote to confirm Ratcliffe after voicing their opposition to the pick last year when Trump announced his intent to make the same move.

Democrats immediately made it clear that they oppose the move.

“Replacing one highly partisan operative with another does nothing to keep our country safe. At a time when the Russians are interfering in our elections, we need a nonpartisan leader at the helm of the Intelligence Community who sees the world objectively and speaks truth to power, and unfortunately neither Acting Director Grenell nor Rep. Ratcliffe comes even close to that,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement Friday.

“With this nomination, President Trump has shown once again his lack of respect for the rule of law and the intelligence community. Republicans must join Democrats in swiftly rejecting the nomination of Mr. Ratcliffe,” the New York Democrat added.

The choice of Ratcliffe to be the new permanent director, and the earlier choice to install Grenell as acting director, further suggests Trump is looking for a loyalist to lead the intelligence services he has so often maligned during his presidency.

Loyalty has been something Trump has focused on as he looked for a candidate for the permanent job — during conversations about the role with potential nominees, the President has attempted to assess how loyal they would be to him should they be nominated and confirmed for the job, two sources told CNN. Trump was looking for a pick who would back his mandate, explained one of the sources.

The decision to renominate Ratcliffe will dredge up a controversy from the summer of 2019 that rankled lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Soon after Trump announced his intent to nominate Ratcliffe, reports surfaced revealing the lawmaker had embellished his credentials — prompting swift criticism from Democratic members of Congress.

At the time, CNN reported that Republicans also privately raised concerns with the White House about Ratcliffe’s nomination.

Trump then blamed the media reports for Ratcliffe’s decision to pull his name.

In the time since that debacle unfolded, Ratcliffe has remained a faithful ally of the President and was one of the members of Congress who Trump mentioned in his victory speech after his Senate impeachment acquittal.

Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned Trump on Tuesday against nominating Ratcliffe.

“I think there was pretty uniform bipartisan opposition to that pick earlier and I don’t think anything has changed,” the Virginia Democrat said.

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