Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) has withdrawn from consideration for the soon-to-be-vacant Director of National Intelligence [DNI] post. Ratcliffe had been nominated by President Trump to replace the soon-leaving Dan Coats.
This withdrawal by Ratcliffe is just the latest instance of a Trump administration nomination going south after the president moved to appoint a key official without first seeking the backing of senior lawmakers or conducting a thorough vetting of the nominee.
Unless President Trump acts quickly and nominates a solid candidate soon, his administration will be left with yet another interim cabinet head after Coats departs on August 15. As far as an acting director, many Democrats are calling for President Trump to appoint Coats’ second-in-command, Sue Gordon, as the acting director of national intelligence.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff [D-Calif] released a statement saying, “Sue Gordon is superbly qualified to serve as Acting Director of National Intelligence…and indeed, the plain language of the law requires that she be elevated to that role once Dan Coats steps down.”
“Rather than seeking to sideline Sue Gordon, the president should recognize that she would be an excellent candidate to replace outgoing Director Coats,” he added.
Officially, the president sent out a message on Twitter blaming media pressure and the effect that it would have on Ratcliffe’s family, but that may not have been the only consideration.
“Our great Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe is being treated very unfairly by the LameStream Media,” President Trump tweeted. “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.” Trump added, “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.”
Shortly after the president took to Twitter, Ratcliffe did as well. “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 posted. “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. The country we all love deserves that it be treated as an American issue.”
But an email, which was sent to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, presented evidence that Ratcliffe had promoted a company accused of being instrumental in the backlash against a whistleblower and their cybersecurity efforts. The whistleblower’s name, as well as details of the case, are not being released for security reasons, but the Government Accountability Project, an organization that protects whistleblowers, is helping represent this as-yet-unnamed government employee.
There was also an allegation from the Washington Post that Ratcliffe lied on his resumé. The Post claims that Ratcliffe had falsely stated on his congressional website to have “arrested over 300 illegal immigrants on a single day” when working as a federal prosecutor.
The problem with Ratcliffe’s nomination in the first place was that he was virtually an unknown to both Democrats and Republicans alike. It wasn’t until the Mueller hearings that Ratcliffe became a familiar face. Therefore, even among Republicans, the nominee received only a lukewarm response.
At the time of Ratcliffe’s nomination, many Republicans admitted to knowing little to nothing about him. “I don’t know John. I’ve met him a couple of times, and seen him on TV,” Homeland Security and Government Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson, a Republican senator from Wisconsin, said. “We’ll have to wait and see what his full background will be.”
“I truly don’t know him at all. I had never heard his name until last week. So, I don’t have any opinion yet,” said Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Mark Warner [D-Virginia], worried about the post becoming “too politicized.” “When we are seeing unprecedented attacks against our democracy, and when we’re seeing not just Russia but eventually others find ways to manipulate news, information…boy, oh boy, if there’s ever a time that we’ve got to make sure that our intelligence isn’t politicized, it’s now,” he said.
One Republican, Texas Senator John Cornyn, also a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, praised Ratcliffe, although he downplayed the obvious lack of the man’s experience in intelligence matters. “Admittedly, I mean, he doesn’t, you know, he’s been a U.S. attorney. He hasn’t been on the [House Intelligence Committee] for that long, but I think, you know, how many DNIs have we had? Maybe two? Two or three? It wasn’t even created until post-9/11,” Cornyn stated. “I have confidence he’ll do a good job.”
Now the question arises: Who will the president pick for his next nominee to be the next DNI? The Wall Street Journal said that the Trump administration has narrowed the field down to three.
The president said he was considering three candidates for the role, whom he didn’t identify, and said he would discuss the matter over the weekend. Among the candidates the president is considering, according to a person familiar with the matter, is Pete Hoekstra, whom Mr. Trump appointed as U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands in July 2017. The U.S. Embassy in the Netherlands didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Chairman Hoekstra became the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, serving from 2004 to 2007. He raised eyebrows with an announcement in June 2006 at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol, where he stated weapons of mass destruction had been located in Iraq in the form of 500 chemical weapons. Those comments were disputed by the mainstream media and several Pentagon sources.
Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.