© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The House Judiciary Committee holds an evidentiary hearing on Trump‘s impeachment inquiry on Capitol Hill in Washington
By Jonathan Landay
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Friday that he was again choosing Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe to be the nation’s top spy, a loyalist whose first nomination he dropped last year amid questions about lack of experience and possible embellishment of your resume.
Trump announced the move on Twitter. It would allow him to extend as director of national intelligence to another staunch supporter, Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany, while the Senate considers Ratcliffe’s nomination.
The announcement comes as the U.S. intelligence community faces a number of challenges, including foreign interference in this year’s presidential election campaign, tensions with Russia, Iran and China, and monitoring the global spread of the coronavirus.
“I am pleased to announce the nomination of @RepRattcliffe (Congressman John Ratcliffe) to be Director of National Intelligence,” Trump said in the tweet. “I would have completed the process sooner, but John wanted to wait until the IG Report was finished.”
It was unclear which report Trump was referring to. Ratcliffe’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“John is an exceptional man of great talent,” Trump tweeted.
His announcement drew a tepid response from Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who said he looked forward to “receiving the official nomination from Congressman Ratcliffe and passing it through the regular Senate order.”
Democrats objected almost immediately, and minority leader Chuck Schumer called for a swift bipartisan rejection of Ratcliffe as supervisor of the 17 agencies that make up the US intelligence community.
“The last time this nomination was unsuccessful, there were serious bipartisan questions about the background and qualifications of Representative Ratcliffe,” Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. “It is difficult for me to see that something new has happened to change that.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the president was ignoring “many serious and outstanding concerns” about Ratcliffe, and that intelligence should never be guided by partisanship or politics.
“Unfortunately, Congressman Ratcliffe has shown an unacceptable acceptance of conspiracy theories and a clear lack of respect and mistrust of our police and intelligence patriots that disqualify him from leading the United States intelligence community,” Pelosi said in a release.
Ratcliffe, who has represented a Texas congressional district since 2015 and is a member of the House intelligence and judicial committees, was an outspoken advocate for the president during the Democratic-led proceedings that resulted in Trump’s impeachment last year. passed on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The Republican-controlled Senate acquitted Trump this month.
Trump first nominated Ratcliffe as Director of National Intelligence (DNI) on July 28 to succeed Dan Coats, a former Republican senator with whom Trump has clashed over assessments involving Russia, North Korea and Iran.
The nomination drew criticism from Democrats and some high-ranking former US intelligence officials who said Ratcliffe lacked experience. Some also expressed fears that it would warp intelligence to support Trump’s views.
The media, including Reuters, also reported concerns that Ratcliffe exaggerated his experience fighting terrorism as a federal prosecutor in Texas.
In a press release on February 25, 2015, Ratcliffe said he had “convicted people” in the prosecution of a charity that funneled money to Hamas, the Palestinian militant group on the US list of foreign terrorist organizations.
Three defense attorneys said they did not remember their involvement in the case.
Trump withdrew the nomination on Aug. 2, and Ratcliffe said he did not want a partisan “national security and intelligence debate surrounding my nomination, false as it may be.”
The reactivation of his nomination allows Grenell to remain as an interim DNI while the Senate considers Ratcliffe. Grenell was limited to serving until March 11 in a temporary capacity unless Trump chose a full-time replacement.
The president appointed Grenell this month to replace Joseph Mcguire, who also served as an interim, after an aide to the former Navy admiral and intelligence veteran briefed the House Intelligence Committee on Russia’s attempts. of interfering in the 2020 presidential race.
The panel is chaired by Democrat Adam Schiff, who led the House impeachment process against Trump.
In reaction to Ratcliffe’s renewed nomination, Schiff said on Twitter: “We now have an intelligence chief who should not have been fired, an unqualified nominee who should not be confirmed, and an interim director who is obviously inadequate.”