Se­nate con­firms Rat­cliffe as in­tel­li­gence chief

Texarkana Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Mary Clare Jalonick and Eric Tucker

WASH­ING­TON — A sharply di­vided Se­nate con­firmed John Rat­cliffe as di­rec­tor of na­tional in­tel­li­gence on Thurs­day, with Democrats re­fus­ing to sup­port the nom­i­na­tion over fears that he will politi­cize the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity’s work un­der Pres­i­dent

Don­ald Trump.

All Democrats op­posed Rat­cliffe, mak­ing him the first DNI to be in­stalled on a par­ti­san vote since the po­si­tion was cre­ated in 2005. The tally was 49-44.

As U.S. rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Rat­cliffe’s Fourth Dis­trict cov­ers the north­east cor­ner of Texas in­clud­ing Texarkana, Mount Pleas­ant, New Bos­ton and At­lanta.

Rat­cliffe will take over as

DNI at a tu­mul­tuous time. The nation faces threats from Iran and North Korea, Rus­sian dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns to in­ter­fere in the U.S. elec­tions and ten­sions with China over ris­ing com­pe­ti­tion and the spread of the coro­n­avirus. At the same time, Trump has viewed the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies with dis­trust and ousted or fired mul­ti­ple of­fi­cials.

The Texas Repub­li­can seemed un­likely to get the po­si­tion when he was nom­i­nated in Fe­bru­ary, as he had al­ready been nom­i­nated for the job last year and then with­drew af­ter Repub­li­cans ques­tioned his ex­pe­ri­ence. But sen­a­tors warmed to him as they grew con­cerned about the up­heaval in the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity and wanted a per­ma­nent, con

firmed di­rec­tor.

Rat­cliffe will re­place Richard Grenell, the cur­rent act­ing di­rec­tor who has over­seen some of the per­son­nel changes. Grenell, the U.S. am­bas­sador to Ger­many, has a thin in­tel­li­gence back­ground and is seen as a loy­al­ist to Trump. As act­ing di­rec­tor, he or­dered a re­view of the DNI of­fice that Trump’s crit­ics feared was an at­tempt to clean house.

The last Se­nate-con­firmed in­tel­li­gence di­rec­tor, for­mer In­di­ana Sen. Dan Coats, was pop­u­lar with his for­mer col­leagues in Congress but left the post last sum­mer af­ter clash­ing with the pres­i­dent.

Democrats al­lowed a quick vote on Rat­cliffe’s nom­i­na­tion, drop­ping their usual pro­ce­dural de­lays in a sig­nal that de­spite their skep­ti­cism, they pre­fer him in the job over Grenell.

Rat­cliffe in­sisted dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing that he would be an in­de­pen­dent leader, but faced skep­ti­cism. A mem­ber of the House in­tel­li­gence and ju­di­ciary com­mit­tees, he has been an ar­dent de­fender of the pres­i­dent through House im­peach­ment and in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence.

Maine Sen. An­gus King, an In­de­pen­dent who cau­cuses with Democrats and a mem­ber of the Se­nate in­tel­li­gence panel, said he has con­cerns that Rat­ciffe has lim­ited ex­pe­ri­ence in the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity yet ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in pol­i­tics. “A dan­ger­ous com­bi­na­tion,” he said.

“Now more than ever it is vi­tal that the DNI re­spect the crit­i­cal fire­wall that must ex­ist be­tween in­tel­li­gence and po­lit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions — es­pe­cially if the truth isn’t what the boss wants to hear,” King said.

Be­fore be­ing elected to Congress in 2014, Rat­cliffe was mayor of Heath, Texas, and a U.S. at­tor­ney in the Eastern Dis­trict of Texas. When he was first nom­i­nated, sen­a­tors ques­tioned whether he had enough in­tel­li­gence ex­pe­ri­ence and whether he was picked be­cause of his will­ing­ness to de­fend Trump.

But given a sec­ond chance, Rat­cliffe worked to sep­a­rate him­self from the pres­i­dent at his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing, in­clud­ing by say­ing he be­lieved Rus­sia in­ter­fered in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, a con­clu­sion Trump has re­sisted. He said he would com­mu­ni­cate to Trump the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity’s find­ings even if he knew Trump dis­agreed with them and might fire him.

John Ross, Repub­li­can can­di­date for the Texas 4th Dis­trict and the dis­trict’s for­mer chief of staff, was quick to con­grat­u­late Ratliffe on his con­fir­ma­tion.

“John has served this dis­trict hon­or­ably and it has been my priv­i­lege to serve with him as we worked to ad­vance con­ser­va­tive prin­ci­ples to­gether through­out the 18 coun­ties in the 4th Dis­trict,” he said. “The peo­ple in the 4th Dis­trict of Texas en­trusted John Rat­cliffe to be their rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Wash­ing­ton, and now Pres­i­dent Trump has called on John to serve our nation in a greater ca­pac­ity.”

AP Photo/ An­drew Harnik, Pool

Rep. John Rat­cliffe, R-Texas, is sworn in be­fore a Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee nom­i­na­tion hear­ing May 5 on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton. Rat­cliffe’s nom­i­na­tion for di­rec­tor of na­tional in­tel­li­gence was ap­proved Thurs­day.

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