Just days after President Trump announced that he wanted a Texas congressman to replace Dan Coats as director of national intelligence, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) said he’s decided not to face a Senate confirmation battle.
“I am pleased to announce that highly respected Congressman John Ratcliffe of Texas will be nominated by me to be the Director of National Intelligence. A former U.S. Attorney, John will lead and inspire greatness for the Country he loves,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Dan Coats, the current Director, will be leaving office on August 15th. I would like to thank Dan for his great service to our Country.”
Ratcliffe, the former mayor of Heath, Texas, served a year as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas during the George W. Bush administration. He has served as congressman for the 4th District in Texas, northeast of Dallas, since 2015.
A lawyer by trade who worked in private practice, Ratcliffe has no experience working in the intelligence community. Trump reportedly considered him for the role of attorney general last year.
As a member of the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, Ratcliffe went to bat for the administration at the recent hearings with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Reports this week, though, accused Ratcliffe of resume-padding, such as claiming he had “put terrorists in prison” as a prosecutor with no known specific cases. “When he’s nominated, and we do an investigation, I’ll be happy to comment on what I think his qualifications are,” said Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
“While I am and will remain very grateful to the president for his intention to nominate me as director of National Intelligence, I am withdrawing from consideration. I was humbled and honored that the president put his trust in me to lead our nation’s intelligence operations and remain convinced that when confirmed, I would have done so with the objectivity, fairness and integrity that our intelligence agencies need and deserve,” Ratcliffe said in a statement today.
“However, I do not wish for a national security and intelligence debate surrounding my confirmation, however untrue, to become a purely political and partisan issue,” he added. “The country we all love deserves that it be treated as an American issue. Accordingly, I have asked the president to nominate someone other than me for this position.”
Trump tweeted today, “Our great Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe is being treated very unfairly by the LameStream Media. Rather than going through months of slander and libel, I explained to John how miserable it would be for him and his family to deal with these people John has therefore decided to stay in Congress where he has done such an outstanding job representing the people of Texas, and our Country. I will be announcing my nomination for DNI shortly.”
When Coats leaves on Aug. 15, by law the deputy DNI is supposed to fill the role until a permanent replacement is confirmed. Concerns were raised, though, when Trump tweeted Sunday that he would soon name an acting DNI. Multiple reports throughout the week indicated that the administration may try to oust Deputy DNI Sue Gordon because she’s not viewed as a partisan loyalist; the Daily Beast reported today that the White House recently asked ODNI “for a list of all its employees at the federal government’s top pay scale who have worked there for 90 days or more.”
Gordon has an extensive intelligence resume, serving the CIA for 25 including as head of the Information Operations Center and serving as deputy director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency from January 2015 until moving to ODNI in August 2017.
The New York Times reported today that Trump refused to be briefed by Gordon during a recent intelligence briefing.
Burr said in a statement after Coats’ resignation was announced, “I look forward to working with DNI’s Principal Deputy Director Sue Gordon, who has been a trusted partner to our Committee.”
Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein tweeted today: “Deputy DNI Sue Gordon is a proven patriot who understands foreign threats, respects the nonpartisan truth, and protects America 24/7. Daughter of a Navy Vice Admiral, mother of 2 Marine captains. Gordon is a great @realDonaldTrump appointee!”