In a move many had been predicting for months, Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) will step down on August 15. In his stead, President Trump has selected U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, a Republican from Texas, as Coats’ replacement.
Coats had been on the job for two years as the DNI, a relatively new post established by Congress in 2004 in the fallout of intelligence failures from 9/11 which failed to warn the country about the impending terrorist attacks in 2001.
Coats has frequently been at odds with the president over several issues but most notably over the alleged Russian election interference and North Korean nuclear capabilities. President Trump asked Coats to give a public statement, refuting any connection of Russian interference and the president’s campaign. Coats refused, stating his office had nothing to do with the investigations and it wasn’t his role to make statements on the Mueller investigation.
It was suspected for the past several months the president was preparing to replace Coats, but in his tweets, the president thanked Coats for a job well done.
“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,” the president tweeted.
Coats served in Congress from 1981 to 1999 as a member of the House and in the Senate. He was appointed as U.S. Ambassador to Germany and was assigned there from 2001 to 2005. Coats returned to the Senate in 2011. He said he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2017 and that’s when he was selected by the president to be the DNI.
President Trump also announced his desire to appoint Ratcliffe as the next Director of National Intelligence.
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,” he added.
Ratcliffe will have to be confirmed by the Senate, which is Republican-controlled. Democrats wasted no time in slamming the president’s selection, saying he was picked only for his total dedication to Trump.
It’s clear that Rep. Ratcliffe was selected because he exhibited blind loyalty to President Trump with his demagogic questioning of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said Sunday. “If Senate Republicans elevate such a partisan player to a position that requires intelligence expertise and non-partisanship, it would be a big mistake.”
What Schumer was referring to was Ratcliffe’s conduct during the recent Mueller testimony in Congress. Ratcliffe grilled Mueller and excoriated him over violating “the most sacred of traditions.” His point was that prosecutors do not speculate on potential crimes when they file no charges. In this case, Ratcliffe attacked Mueller over his repeated use of the term that President Trump was not exonerated, when, as he pointed out, there wasn’t evidence to show guilt.
Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, attacked Ratcliffe’s qualifications. In a press release, Senator Wyden said Ratcliffe was “the most partisan and least qualified individual ever nominated to serve as Director of National Intelligence,” and more.
The sum total of his qualifications appears to be his record of promoting Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories about the investigation into Russian interference and calling for prosecution of Trump’s political enemies,” Wyden said.
“Confirming this individual would amount to an endorsement of this administration’s drive to politicize our intelligence agencies,” Wyden added. “This is a dangerous time, and America needs the most qualified and objective individuals possible to lead our intelligence agencies. Anything less risks American lives.”
He and Schumer were referring to Ratcliffe’s comments during the recent hearings. The former federal prosecutor sharply criticized Mueller, which no doubt caught the attention of the administration.
“The bedrock principle of our justice system is a presumption of innocence. It exists for everyone…including sitting presidents,” he said.
Ratcliff blasted Mueller even further with the way the Russia probe and resultant obstruction probe was handled. “Donald Trump is not above the law. He’s not. But he damn sure shouldn’t be below the law, which is where this report puts him.”
On Sunday, Ratcliffe was interviewed on television and reiterated what the president has been saying on Twitter for the past two years, that the entire probe was politically motivated to usurp him from the Oval Office. He said the Mueller reports, “weren’t from Robert Mueller” but rather “were written by what a lot of people believe was Hillary Clinton’s de facto legal team.”
His confirmation hearings may prove to be more contentious than the recent Supreme Court hearings. However, there are several points he should be grilled on, including:
- Guaranteeing election security in 2020
- Chinese influence and espionage into U.S. businesses
- Countering foreign cyber threats
Before he resigned, Coats had appointed a special election overseer to guarantee no foreign intrusion exists (Russian, Chinese, unregistered voters) during the election process. Ratcliffe will certainly face many questions on this from the Senate. Despite the Russian hysteria, the Chinese threat is growing as well.