Trump pick for na­tional in­tel­li­gence di­rec­tor is with­draw­ing name

The Saline Courier Weekend - - NEWS -

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s pick for na­tional in­tel­li­gence di­rec­tor, Texas Rep. John Rat­cliffe, with­drew from con­sid­er­a­tion Fri­day amid con­cerns in Con­gress about his ex­pe­ri­ence and qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

The move, com­ing just five days after Trump an­nounced plans to nom­i­nate Rat­cliffe, un­der­scored the un­cer­tainty over his con­fir­ma­tion prospects. Democrats openly dis­missed the Repub­li­can con­gress­man as an un­qual­i­fied partisan and Repub­li­cans of­fered only luke­warm and ten­ta­tive ex­pres­sions of sup­port.

The an­nounce­ment leaves the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity with­out a per­ma­nent, Se­nate­con­firmed leader at a time when the U.S. govern­ment is grap­pling with North Korea’s nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties, the prospect of war with Iran and the an­tic­i­pated ef­forts of Rus­sia or other for­eign gov­ern­ments to in­ter­fer­ence in the Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

In a tweet Fri­day, Trump said Rat­cliffe had de­cided to stay in Con­gress so as to avoid “months of slander and li­bel.”

Trump didn’t cite spe­cific me­dia re­ports, though mul­ti­ple sto­ries in the last week have ques­tioned Rat­cliffe’s qual­i­fi­ca­tions and sug­gested that he had mis­rep­re­sented his ex­pe­ri­ence as a fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor in Texas.

Rat­cliffe is a fre­quent Trump de­fender who fiercely ques­tioned for­mer spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller dur­ing a House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee hear­ing last week.

Even as Mueller laid bare con­cerns that Rus­sia was work­ing to in­ter­fere with U.S. elec­tions again, Rat­cliffe re­mained fo­cused on the pos­si­bil­ity that U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies had overly re­lied on un­ver­i­fied op­po­si­tion re­search in in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Trump cam­paign’s ties to Rus­sia.

In his own state­ment, Rat­cliffe said he re­mained con­vinced that he could have done the job “with the ob­jec­tiv­ity, fair­ness and integrity that our in­tel­li­gence agen­cies need and de­serve.”

“How­ever,” he added, “I do not wish for a na­tional se­cu­rity and in­tel­li­gence de­bate sur­round­ing my con­fir­ma­tion, how­ever un­true, to be­come a purely po­lit­i­cal and partisan is­sue.”

Rat­cliffe would have re­placed for­mer in­tel­li­gence di­rec­tor Dan Coats, who re­peat­edly clashed with Trump and an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion on Sun­day.

North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the chair­man of the Se­nate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, said in a state­ment that he re­spects Rat­cliffe’s de­ci­sion and he is com­mit­ted to mov­ing the of­fi­cial nom­i­na­tion through com­mit­tee.

“There is no sub­sti­tute for hav­ing a Se­nate-con­firmed di­rec­tor in place to lead our In­tel­li­gence Com­mu­nity,” Burr said.

Se­nate Repub­li­cans were pub­licly luke­warm on Rat­cliffe’s nom­i­na­tion. Some ex­pressed con­cerns that the House law­maker, who was viewed as a partisan, did not come with the grav­i­tas of Coats, who had long­time re­la­tions as a for­mer sen­a­tor. Some se­na­tors said they had never even heard of him be­fore his ques­tion­ing of Mueller.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mccon­nell sig­naled a wait-and-see ap­proach on Tues­day, say­ing only that he looked for­ward to meet­ing with Rat­cliffe and dis­cussing his back­ground.

Mccon­nell, R-KY., said that “gen­er­ally speak­ing, I’d lean to­ward the pres­i­dent’s nom­i­nees.” But he de­clined to fully en­dorse Rat­cliffe, who served as a mayor of a small Texas town and a U.S. at­tor­ney be­fore be­ing elected to Con­gress in 2014.

Ok­la­homa Sen. James Lank­ford, a Repub­li­can who is a for­mer mem­ber of the com­mit­tee, ap­peared more con­cerned, say­ing that Rat­cliffe will have “some catch­ing up to do” in the role. He said Coats, who had spent decades in Wash­ing­ton, clearly had more ex­pe­ri­ence.

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