Trump Abruptly Drops John Ratcliffe As DNI Nominee Amid Political Headwinds
President Trump abruptly dropped his intention to nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, to serve as director of national intelligence on Friday.
Coolness from Senate Republicans and reports in the press about past overstatements about Ratcliffe’s record appear to have prompted the White House to calculate that it was wiser to cut bait now than try to press ahead against those headwinds.
Trump wrote on Twitter that Ratcliffe had been treated “unfairly” in media coverage and that he’d told the congressman it might be easier to just stay in the House.
Trump also wrote that he would announce another nominee to become director of national intelligence “shortly.”
The position is to become vacant with the resignation of Dan Coats, with whom Trump never developed a rapport.
Tensions between the president and the intelligence community also appear to have worsened over the Ratcliffe episode, as people in the spy world made clear via the newspaper coverage how unqualified they believed he is and how unwelcome he would be atop the sprawling alphabet soup of domestic and foreign spy agencies.
The feeling is clearly mutual: The New York Times reported on Friday that Trump has at least once barred Coats’ deputy, Sue Gordon, from the Oval Office and that the White House might attempt to stop her from serving as the interim DNI during the interregnum after Coats’ departure.
Gordon is an intelligence community lifer with some three decades of experience and has served as the day-to-day, hands-on manager. Her supporters faulted what appeared to be a scheme to deny her at least an interim role in the top job, which they argue is owed her by law.
Senate intelligence committee ranking member Mark Warner, D-Va., told the Times the idea of denying Gordon was “outrageous.”
As for Ratcliffe, he thanked Trump in a Twitter post following the one Trump used to announce he would no longer be nominated. Ratcliffe also said he would have been a candid and professional director of national intelligence, following worries that he was being installed as a political lackey.