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Trump's Intelligence Pick Has Rocky Path to Confirmation

Critics say Rep. John Ratcliffe isn't qualified to replace Dan Coats
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 30, 2019 1:32 PM CDT

(Newser) – Rep. John Ratcliffe got perhaps the biggest national exposure of his political career when he grilled Robert Mueller last week with a line of questioning that displayed his staunch support of President Trump. After the Mueller hearings, Ratcliffe got even more exposure when Trump announced that the Texas Republican was his pick to replace Dan Coats as director of national intelligence. The gist of coverage since then strongly suggests that Ratcliffe, 53, should not expect an easy confirmation. Details:

  • The criticism: In a story sussing this out, the Washington Post has this as its second paragraph: "Current and former intelligence officials also said Ratcliffe is the least-qualified person ever nominated to oversee the country’s intelligence agencies and questioned whether he would use the position to serve Trump’s political interests." The story cites an op-ed by former defense officials Mike Vickers and Michael Morrell to that effect. They say he "would come to the job with by far the least experience in foreign policy and intelligence of any DNI in two decades."
  • Firing back: Ratcliffe served as a US attorney in the Eastern District of Texas before his election to Congress in 2014, and his office asserts this: “Department of Justice records will confirm that as both Chief of Anti-Terrorism and National Security for the Eastern District of Texas from 2004-2008, John Ratcliffe opened, managed and supervised numerous domestic and international terrorism related cases."

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  • About that experience: ABC News is reporting that Ratcliffe has "misrepresented" his role in one big terrorism case involving Hamas. He claimed that he was appointed "special prosecutor" in 2008 and secured convictions in a money-funneling operation. But he actually had no direct role in that prosecution, according to all involved; instead he investigated issues related to a mistrial. "Because the investigation did not result in any charges, it would not be in accordance with Department of Justice policies to make further details public," says a spokesperson.
  • Famous phrase: Last year, Ratcliffe was the first to use the phrase "secret society" to describe an alleged anti-Trump bias in the FBI, reports the Daily Beast. He spoke of it in January 2018 after texts between two FBI agents were made public. “We learned today about information that in the immediate aftermath of his election, there may have been a ‘secret society’ of folks within the Department of Justice and the FBI, to include (Lisa) Page and (Peter) Strzok, working against him,” Ratcliffe said on Fox. “I’m not saying that actually happened, but when folks speak in those terms, they need to come forward to explain the context.”
  • Another factor: Politico points out that Ratcliffe is simply not that well known among the senators who will vote on his confirmation. Democrats are coming out full throttle against him, saying he will tell the president only what he wants to hear. And Politico characterizes public statements from Republicans about the nominee as "lukewarm." In fact, Time reports that GOP Sen. Richard Burr, chair of the intelligence panel, warned the White House that nominating Ratcliffe would be a seen as a partisan political move.
(Read more John Ratcliffe stories.)

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