President Trump announced late Friday that he is nominating Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) to be his next director of national intelligence. That’s despite the former Texas prosecutor withdrawing his nomination last year.
Ratcliffe, a large Trump donor, dropped out of the nomination process in July 2019, blaming unfair media coverage. But The Daily Beast reported that before Racliffe announced his withdrawal, an email revealing his alleged involvement in a contentious whistleblowing case made its way to the White House.
On Friday, Trump tweeted that he “would have completed [the] process earlier” but “John wanted to wait until after IG Report was finished,” an apparent reference to the inspector general’s report on how the FBI handled its counterintelligence probe of Trump campaign associates.
“John is an outstanding man of great talent!” he wrote.
Just last week, Trump appointed U.S. Ambassador to Germany and longtime Trumpworld loyalist Richard Grenell, who has no intelligence experience, as his acting DNI. A former intelligence official told The Daily Beast at the time that the announcement “blindsided” career officials in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Ratcliffe, who himself has little national security experience, is in for a rocky confirmation process. His nomination last year drew swift opposition from Senate Democrats and lukewarm support from key Republicans.
Senate Intelligence chair Richard Burr told White House officials Ratcliffe, a outspoken supporter of the president, was too partisan, The New York Times reported. On the Senate floor, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called him “a three-term tea party congressman who, when he goes on television, appeals to the president’s sense of stridency and partisanship.”
Even if there’s little chance Ratcliffe will be confirmed by the Senate, his nomination allows Grenell to continue to serve past March 11, University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck pointed out on Twitter. Federal law also stipulates that an acting DNI can stay in place for another 210 days after the Senate either rejects a nomination or the nominee withdraws.
Grenell was brought in last week to replace acting DNI Joseph Maguire, whom Trump replaced over what he felt was disloyalty by one of Maguire’s aides, according to multiple reports. The aide had briefed the House Intelligence Committee that Russia was once again interfering in the election in Trump’s favor.
After former DNI Dan Coats announced his resignation last summer, Trump tweeted that he intended to nominate Ratcliffe to replace him, a move that surprised White House aides, who had not vetted the congressman, The Washington Post reported.
Ratcliffe, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, had been a vocal critic of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe and had seized on text messages between FBI agents Lisa Page and Peter Strzok as evidence of bias within the FBI. He even claimed to have seen texts between the pair that suggested the existence of a “secret society” working against Trump—an easily debunked conspiracy theory that he played a part in spreading far and wide.
But Ratcliffe’s nomination fell apart in just a few weeks. An investigation by The Washington Post found he had embellished how many immigrants he rounded up in one day as a U.S. attorney. Another investigation found he’d embellished his national security credentials by claiming he’d prosecuted two major terrorism cases, despite court records showing he had no involvement.
His July 2019 withdrawal prompted Trump to complain he was being treated unfairly.
“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 said at the time. “John has therefore decided to stay in Congress where he has done such an outstanding job representing the people of Texas, and our Country.”
Trump said last year it didn’t bother him that Ratcliffe lacked much national security expertise. “I think he would’ve picked it up very quickly,” he said.