The Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Dan Coats, is resigning and a replacement has been named. Rep. John Ratcliffe from Texas will be nominated by President Trump. Meanwhile, Ratcliffe will join the ranks of several others – an acting head of a department in the Trump administration.
Coats had already indicated he would be resigning and on Sunday, the date of August 15 was announced as his last. It is reported that President Trump has been speaking with Rep. Ratcliffe in recent weeks. Ratcliffe’s performance during last week’s Mueller hearings no doubt cinched the job offer from Trump. Ratcliffe aggressively questioned Robert Mueller about the lack of proof of collusion in his report yet he outlined numerous examples of potential obstruction by President Trump. Mueller refused to exonerate Trump.
During Mueller’s first hearing before the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Ratcliffe said he agreed with Mueller’s conclusions that Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election were “sweeping and systematic.”
But he tore into Mueller for including the asterisk in his report that explicitly said Trump was not exonerated.
“Can you give me an example other than Donald Trump where the Justice Department determined that an investigated person was not exonerated because their innocence was not conclusively determined?” Ratcliffe asked Mueller.
Here is a clip of Ratcliffe’s exchange with Mueller from MSNBC. It’s brutal. “You managed to violate every principle and the most sacred of traditions about prosecutors not offering extra prosecutorial analysis.” Ratcliffe rightfully notes that somewhere along the line, President Trump’s presumption of innocence was lost. Even presidents are entitled to a presumption of innocence, he said.
As is his way, President Trump tweeted his decision and Coats’ resignation Sunday.
Democrats sprang into action to criticize the choice.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, called Ratcliffe’s questioning of Mueller “demagogic” and said the White House selected him for intelligence director because he “exhibited blind loyalty to President 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,” Schumer said in a press release 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.”
The implication from Democrats is that Ratcliffe isn’t really qualified for such a high level intelligence position. That’s poppycock. While Democrats like to lessen his career accomplishments by only acknowledging his position as mayor of a small town in Texas, Ratcliffe has had a much bigger career, including being a former U.S. Attorney, before being elected to the House of Representatives.He has expertise in the field of anti-terrorism intelligence.
This is really unfair. He served as chief of anti-terrorism in the Eastern District of Texas, then served as US Attorney. He’s held in very high regard on Capitol Hill. A very serious elected official. https://t.co/NX3Q6uOUQI
— Matt Mackowiak (@MattMackowiak) July 28, 2019
We haven’t heard much from Coats during his time as DNI. It is reported that his relationship with President Trump has not been good. Trump tends to leave Coats out of the loop. He voiced frustration with Coats in private conversations.
In January, Coats, a former senator and U.S. ambassador to Germany, told Congress that North Korea was unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons, contradicting Trump’s statement that Pyongyang no longer poses a threat.
President Trump hailed his first summit with Kim Jong-Un as a success but Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the young dictator is unlikely to give up his nuclear stockpile.
‘We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD (weapons of mass destruction) capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival,’ Coats said in his opening statement.
He said, ‘Our assessment is bolstered by our observations of some activity that is inconsistent with full denuclearization.’
He also told lawmakers that Iran had continued to comply with a nuclear deal that Trump abandoned.
The next day, Trump on Twitter complained about the ‘passive and naive’ U.S. intelligence leaders, suggesting they ‘go back to school!’
Coats’ nomination was voted on with strong bi-partisan support. The March 2017 vote was 85-12. I don’t think it is going too far out on a limb to predict that Ratcliffe’s vote will fall along party lines, especially given the present environment in the Senate. There’s no way that a majority of Democrats will vote in favor of the president’s pick in this campaign season, especially given Ratcliffe’s questioning of Mueller.