With Senate Republicans poised to confirm Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) as the new Director of National Intelligence (DNI), national security experts have expressed deep concerns over Ratcliffe’s lack of intelligence experience and his relationship with the truth.
President Donald Trump had previously nominated Ratcliffe, a former United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, to replace former DNI Dan Coats in August of 2019, but withdrew the nomination after it was revealed that Ratcliffe had drastically misrepresented several aspects of his professional background. Specifically, Ratcliffe “misrepresented his role in an anti-terrorism case that he’s repeatedly cited among his credentials related to national security issues,” and claimed he was appointed as the “Chief of Anti-Terrorism and National Security in the Eastern District of Texas” – a role that has simply never existed.
“How does it no longer matter that DNI nominee John Ratcliffe misrepresented his national security experience, even though it tanked him in 2019? Have we slipped that far that fast?” asked former national security prosecutor and U.S attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara McQuade. McQuade is also a NBC and MSNBC legal analyst.
How does it no longer matter that DNI nominee John Ratcliffe misrepresented his national security experience, even though it tanked him in 2019? Have we slipped that far that fast? https://t.co/aw8Gmx6Hou
— Barb McQuade (@BarbMcQuade) May 5, 2020
Many experts also pointed out that regardless of the misrepresentations about his background, Ratcliffe still doesn’t have the “extensive” intelligence experience statutorily required for any DNI nominee.
“When it created the position in 2004, Congress mandated that the Director of National Intelligence “shall have extensive national security expertise,” University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck wrote, referring to 50 U.S. Code § 3023. “The Senate’s about to confirm a nominee who not only lacks such expertise—but who lied about having it.”
When it created the position in 2004, Congress mandated that the Director of National Intelligence “shall have extensive national security expertise.”https://t.co/RUZxo3VIBV
The Senate’s about to confirm a nominee who not only lacks such expertise—but who lied about having it. pic.twitter.com/NgAElqMlOi
— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) May 6, 2020
Former Intelligence Community (IC) attorney and current CNN national security and legal analyst Susan Hennessey said Ratcliffe’s colleagues referring to him as “imminently qualified” was “laughable.”
“Ratcliffe’s buddies might have nice things to say about him. But the idea he is ‘imminently qualified’ to be DNI is just laughable,” Hennessey commented. “With the exception of the current acting, Ratcliffe would be the least qualified person to hold the position by a country mile. That’s just a fact.”
Ratcliffe's buddies might have nice things to say about him. But the idea he is "imminently qualified" to be DNI is just laughable. With the exception of the current acting, Ratcliffe would be the least qualified person to hold the position by a country mile. That's just a fact. https://t.co/12AzTkK8tI
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) May 5, 2020
During his confirmation hearing in the Senate on Tuesday, Ratcliffe did little to allay those concerned with his adherence to facts.
For example, when asked whether he believed a “deep state” existed within the intelligence community, Ratcliffe said he didn’t know what the term meant.
“In addition to this being an outright lie—Ratcliffe certainly knows ‘what that means’—this was an opportunity for Ratcliffe to publicly reject a pernicious lie about a workforce he wants to lead,” Hennessey added. “That fact that he won’t speaks volumes about his inability to speak truth to Trump.”
In addition to this being an outright lie—Ratcliffe certainly knows "what that means"—this was an opportunity for Ratcliffe to publicly reject a pernicious lie about a workforce he wants to lead. That fact that he won't speaks volumes about his inability to speak truth to Trump. https://t.co/YZGYfaxFbP
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) May 5, 2020
He also stated that he never made any statements accusing the intelligence community of undermining President Trump, a claim which Ned Price, a former Special Assistant to President Barack Obama, pointed out was clearly false.
.@MarkWarner: Have you made statements accusing the Intel Community of undermining the President?
Ratcliffe in 2018: "Astonishing level, outrageous level of bias and prejudice" within the FBI towards President Trump. pic.twitter.com/CqOaAdmqD1
— Ned Price (@nedprice) May 5, 2020
Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) went to bat for Ratcliffe in a Tuesday op-ed, praising Ratcliffe’s “body of work” and “expertise”:
Due to his body of work and earned respect from his colleagues, John was asked to serve on the House Intelligence Committee. This most crucial area of service is reserved for the handful of the most trusted members of Congress. There was no one better to handle classified information and our national interests than John Ratcliffe.
His expertise and authenticity did not require hyperbolic ingredients to reveal his skillset. And, it wasn’t long until the whole nation was watching and listening. John has also served to great effect on the House Judiciary Committee where his questioning dissected those in government who abused power or violated the public trust. He is never intimidated confronting truth to power of any political party. Yet, interestingly enough, his friendships are not limited to those sitting on only one side of the aisle – a rarity in this hyper-partisan era.
[image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]
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