Who is the man Trump named to replace Dan Coats?
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump announced Sunday that he has selected Rep. John Ratcliffe to replace Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats when Coats leaves his post next month.
“I am pleased to announce that highly respected Congressman John Ratcliffe of Texas will be nominated by me to be the Director of National Intelligence. A former U.S. Attorney, John will lead and inspire greatness for the Country he loves,” Trump said in a tweet.
“I am deeply grateful to President Trump for the opportunity to lead our Nation’s intelligence community and work on behalf of all the public servants who are tirelessly devoted to defending the security and safety of the United States,” Ratcliffe said.
Here is what you need to know about the man Trump has tapped to be the next director of national intelligence:
He is more ideologically aligned with Trump
Coats’ tenure as Trump’s intelligence community czar was at times rocky, as the DNI director’s assessments did not always conform to the president’s political priorities.
Ratcliffe, 53, appears to be someone who will share more of Trump’s perspectives.
For example, Coats declined to include immigration among the top threats facing the United States during his annual threat assessment before Congress in January, when Trump was calling it a national security threat. That same month, Ratcliffe voted against the appropriations bill to end a government shutdown because it did not include all the funds Trump had requested for a border wall and “ensure our national security needs are met.”
“When the safety of American citizens is on the line, we just can’t afford to miss the mark,” Ratcliffe said in a tweet explaining his decision to vote against the bill.
What the director of national intelligence does
The director of intelligence is the head of the U.S. intelligence community. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the 9/11 Commission cited a lack of communication and cooperation between various law enforcement and intelligence agencies as being partly to blame for a failure to identify warning signs that might have prevented the attack.
The DNI was established to better coordinate those agencies to prevent future domestic attacks. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence prepares the president’s daily intelligence briefing and advises senior military commanders, as well as Congress, on national intelligence.
As a Cabinet-level position, the director of national intelligence requires Senate confirmation.
He made an impression during Mueller’s testimony
Ratcliffe gained national attention last week when he aggressively questioned former special counsel Robert Mueller. He argued that the entire second volume of Mueller’s report on potential acts of obstruction of justice should never have been written.
“You wrote 180 pages about decisions that weren’t reached, about potential crimes that weren’t charged or decided,” Ratcliffe said. “Respectfully, by doing that, you managed to violate every principle and the most sacred of traditions about prosecutors.”
He also made an argument – which has since been repeated by Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney – that criticized Mueller’s statement that while his “report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
“It was not the special counsel’s job to conclusively determine Donald Trump’s innocence or to exonerate him because the bedrock principle of our justice system is a presumption of innocence,” Ratcliffe said.
“Donald Trump is not above the law. He’s not. But he damn sure shouldn’t be below the law,” he told Mueller.
The next day, during an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Trump named Ratcliffe as one of the congressional Republicans he thought “represented themselves brilliantly” during Mueller’s testimony.
Critics say he is too ‘partisan’
While Coats has been praised for his independence from Trump, critics are already skeptical that Ratcliffe will be too eager to please the president.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said it would be a “big mistake” to “elevate such a partisan player to a position that requires intelligence expertise and non-partisanship.”
“It’s clear that Rep. Ratcliffe was selected because he exhibited blind loyalty to President Trump with his demagogic questioning of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller,” Schumer said in a tweet on Sunday.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., on Monday said Ratcliffe was “an inapproriate choice” for the historically nonpartisan post.
“I think he’s a television character that the president has watched on TV, and he wants to put somebody in this position who’s going to agree with his political take on intelligence,” Murphy said on MSNBC.
The New York Times reported Sunday that some Senate Republicans have similar reservations. Citing unnamed sources, the Times said Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., told the White House that Ratcliffe was “too political” for the job.
Ratcliffe defeated a 34-year incumbent in 2014
Ratcliffe unseated 17-term Rep. Ralph Hall in a 2014 primary election. Hall, first elected to Congress in 1980, was a Democrat who changed parties in 2004.
With tea-party support, Ratcliffe campaigned against Hall as a Washington insider who had been on Capitol Hill for too long. Hall, the oldest serving member of Congress when he left office at 91, claimed he once sold cigarettes to the notorious outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.
He is a former U.S. attorney and small-town mayor
Ratcliffe served as a U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas from 2007-2008.
On his congressional biography, he boasts that in his stint as a federal prosecutor, he “put terrorists in prison, arrested 300 illegal aliens in a single day, and cracked down on drug trafficking and public corruption.”
From 2004 to 2012. he served as mayor of Heath, Texas, an affluent suburb on the shores of Lake Ray Hubbard, about 25 miles from downtown Dallas. According to the U.S. Census, the town currently has a population of 8,953, up from 6,921 in 2010.
Racliffe’s biographby says that as Heath’s mayor, he “balanced the budget for eight consecutive years without ever raising taxes.”
Contributing: David Jackson, John Fritze, Maureen Groppe and Bart Jansen