Trump abruptly reversed GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe’s nomination for spy chief amid a bipartisan uproar

  • President Donald Trump announced Friday that he’s no longer nominating Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe to be Director of National Intelligence (DNI).
  • Ratcliffe came under heightened scrutiny in recent days for allegedly inflating his resume, with critics saying he was unfit to assume the most non-partisan job in the US government.
  • “I will be announcing my nomination for DNI shortly,” Trump said in a tweet after announcing that he’d dropped Ratcliffe.
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President Donald Trump slammed the brakes Friday on his nomination of Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe as more and more questions emerged about his qualifications to be the Director of National Intelligence.

The abrupt reversal came amid bipartisan backlash over Ratcliffe’s qualifications, as well as recent allegations that he misled the public about having successfully prosecuted people who funneled money to Hamas.

“Our great Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe is being treated very unfairly by the LameStream Media,” 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.”

The president did not say what he felt the media had falsely reported.

The president 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.”

Ratcliffe confirmed the development in a separate tweet, writing, “While I am and will remain very grateful to the President for his intention to nominate me as Director of National Intelligence, I am withdrawing from consideration.”

Ratcliffe catapulted to the national spotlight last week when he attacked and berated the former special counsel Robert Mueller during his Capitol Hill testimony.

According to CNN, Ratcliffe had been under consideration for outgoing DNI Dan Coats’ job for a while, but White House insiders didn’t think he was aggressive enough. His questioning during Mueller’s hearings changed that perception, and five days later, the president announced Ratcliffe’s nomination.

Read more:
Current and former officials say Trump’s pick for spy chief would be ‘an arm of the White House’ who could paralyse the intelligence community

But the Texas lawmaker’s performance raised red flags among intelligence veterans who worried that he was too ideological to fill a position that’s traditionally been seen as the most non-partisan job in the country. The DNI oversees 16 intelligence agencies, a post created to ensure intelligence sharing in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks; by law, this official is required to have “extensive national security experience.”

Indeed, Ratcliffe has a history of fuelling the president’s unfounded conspiracy theories tied to the Russia investigation. In May, Ratcliffe told Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo that former FBI Director James Comey “either is or should be” investigated for violating the Espionage Act for memorializing his conversations with the president in the Oval Office, and for later instructing a friend to share that information with the press.

On Sunday, Ratcliffe said during a Fox News interview that “there were crimes committed during the Obama administration” related to investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

In the wake of the Mueller hearings, one current FBI agent, who requested anonymity to freely discuss the matter, told INSIDER that Ratcliffe’s performance during the testimony made him look like “an arm of the White House” and a “disastrous” pick to lead the ODNI.

Questions about Ratcliffe’s record

Earlier this week, ABC News reported that Ratcliffe inflated his resume and misled the public about his involvement in a major anti-terrorism case.

Ratcliffe on his official House website and in campaign materials had claimed he “convicted individuals who were funelling money to Hamas behind the front of a charitable organisation.”

But ABC News reported it found no public records indicating that Ratcliffe was involved in either of the two trials. Former officials who were involved in the matter also told the outlet they had no recollection of Ratcliffe’s role, and four former defence attorneys who represented individuals in the cases told ABC News they didn’t remember Ratcliffe being involved with any of the proceedings.

Ratcliffe’s website claimed he has “put terrorists in prison,” but NBC News found no record he ever prosecuted a terrorism case.

Ratcliffe’s office clarified to ABC News in a statement that his status regarding the US v. Holy Land case was related to investigating issues surrounding what led to the mistrial in the first case.

Ratcliffe was elected to the House of Representatives in 2015 and claims he previously served as chief of the Anti-Terrorism and National Security division for the Eastern District of Texas.

But DOJ veterans have been puzzled about that claim, with one former prosecutors writing, “Ratcliffe also claims he was appointed-by President Bush! -as ‘chief of anti-terrorism and national security in the Eastern District of Texas.’ DOJ formers (myself included) scratched our heads when we saw that. Because that role doesn’t exist.”

DNI Dan Coats resigned in the past week and with Ratcliffe no longer in the running to replace him, it’s unclear who the country’s next intelligence chief might be.

The Trump administration reportedly plans to block the number two intelligence official in the US, Sue Gordon, from becoming acting DNI after Coats steps down on August 15. The move raised concerns among lawmakers and those in the national-security apparatus, because US law states that as Coats’ deputy, Gordon should become acting director.