President Trump is nominating GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe to replace Dan Coats as director of national intelligence.
Trump tweeted, “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. 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 Acting Director will be named shortly.”
During his two-year tenure, Coats often came out of step with Trump, and their frayed connection reflected wider divisions between the president and intelligence agencies of the government.
For instance, Mueller’s report said, “Coats responded that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has nothing to do with investigations and it was not his role to make a public statement on the Russia investigation.”
Coats has held the role of director of national intelligence for more than two years, shepherding the intelligence community through a crucial period in the wake of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Coats’s job has been rumored to be in jeopardy at various points during his tenure, including when his public comments have put him at odds with President Trump.
According to Fox News, earlier this month, the president spoke to two people about the job. Among the candidates he was considering at the time were Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Fred Fleitz, who previously served as chief of staff to National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Ratcliffe, a former federal prosecutor, has at points been rumored as a potential candidate for various jobs in the administration, including attorney general and director of national intelligence. The Texas congressman is a member of both the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees and has become a prominent GOP supporter of President Trump on Capitol Hill.
Axios reported earlier Sunday that President Trump was impressed by Ratcliffe’s questioning of former special counsel Robert Mueller during high-profile congressional hearings last Wednesday.
Ratcliffe rebuked Mueller’s report during his first hearing before the House Judiciary Committee and suggested he violated Justice Department principles by stating he did not exonerate Trump on allegations of obstruction of justice.
“It was not the special counsel’s job to conclusively determine Donald Trump’s innocence or to exonerate him because the bedrock principle of our justice system is presumption of innocence. It exists for everyone,” Ratcliffe said.
Reaction from Republican lawmakers to Ratcliffe’s selection appeared positive across the board. House Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), called Ratcliffe an “excellent pick to be director of national intelligence.”
“His experience on the Homeland Security Committee and as former Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, & Innovation Subcommittee chairman will serve him well in this new role,” Rogers said. “I thank Director Coats for his leadership and years of public service.”
And, House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), said Ratcliffe was a “great pick.”
President Trump sparred with Coats and the intelligence community frequently and openly. “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!” he tweeted in January, after Coats and CIA Director Gina Haspel testified about a threat-assessment report that called into question some of the president’s foreign policy judgments.
Coats said North Korea would be “unlikely” to give up its nuclear weapons or its ability to produce them because “its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.” Coats and other officials also contradicted President Trump’s positions on Iran, Afghanistan, and the ISIS terror network.
“The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!” the president responded. “When I became President Iran was making trouble all over the Middle East, and beyond. Since ending the terrible Iran Nuclear Deal, they are MUCH different, but a source of potential danger and conflict.”
Ratcliffe, by contrast, appeared to be on the same page as the president. “By requiring Donald Trump to prove his innocence, they were depriving him of the one thing no one can be deprived of, which is a presumption of innocence,” Ratcliffe said in an interview with Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”
Ratcliffe was also heavily involved in GOP efforts to investigate the FBI’s actions in the early stages of the Russia investigation when Republicans controlled the House in the last Congress.
Ratcliffe’s office did not immediately return a request for comment Sunday afternoon. It is unclear how his nomination will be received by the Senate, though his position as a current member of Congress and member of the Intelligence Committee is likely to help his candidacy among Republican senators.