Trump renominates Ratcliffe as Director of National Intelligence

House Spygate probe star withdrew from consideration last summer after resume questions surfaced

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Rep. John Ratcliffe questioning Special Counsel Robert Mueller as he testified before the House Intelligence Committee in July 2019
Rep. John Ratcliffe questions Special Counsel Robert Mueller at Intelligence Committee hearing, July 2019
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Last Updated:
February 29, 2020 - 12:58pm

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President Trump announced late Friday he was renominating Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) to serve as the nation’s permanent Director of National Intelligence (DNI), making a second push to land a fierce loyalist and Russia probe critic as his spy chief.

Trump first floated Ratcliffe's name last summer as a replacement for the departed DNI Dan Coats, but the congressman withdrew his name from consideration after questions emerged about his credentials and whether he embellished his resume as a federal prosecutor.

Trump signaled he has confidence in putting the nomination forward a second time. The nomination also allows acting DNI Richard Grenell to stay in the job until Ratcliffe is confirmed. Grenell would have had to step down in mid-March if Trump hadn't named a permanent nominee.

“John is an outstanding man of great talent,” Trump declared in his announcement, suggesting he held Ratcliffe's nomination until after the Justice Department inspector general's report on the Russia probe's failures was published.

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Ratcliffe drew widespread praise in conservative circles for his deep probing questions into the FISA abuses in the Russia collusion probe, including an intense interrogation of former Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.

When he withdrew last summer, Ratcliffe noted that as the intel chief he would have served "with the objectivity, fairness and integrity that our intelligence agencies need and deserve."

"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," President Trump tweeted at the time of Ratcliffe's withdrawal last year.

Trump’s announcement comes only a couple of weeks after he announced that Grenell, his ambassador to Germany, would serve as the acting director of national intelligence. Grenell congratulated the congressman.

The GOP head of the Senate committee that will handle Ratcliffe's nomination offered a cautious statement.

“I look forward to receiving Congressman Ratcliffe’s official nomination and ushering it through the Senate’s regular order,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said in a statement.

Democrats, meanwhile, signaled renewed opposition.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) both blasted the president’s decision and called on legislators to reject Ratcliffe’s nomination.

“Replacing one highly partisan operative with another does nothing to keep our country safe,” Schumer said in a statement. “At a time when the Russians are interfering in our elections we need a nonpartisan leader at the helm of the intelligence community who sees the world objectively and speaks truth to power, and unfortunately neither Acting Director Grenell nor Rep. Ratcliffe comes even close to that.”

“Last summer, this nomination was withdrawn after revelations about Congressman Ratcliffe’s clear lack of qualifications and many misleading statements about his resume,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The President is now ignoring these many serious outstanding concerns and letting politics, not patriotism, guide our national security.”