Trump's Pick for New Spy Chief Is Reportedly Rattling Top Republicans

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Donald Trump’s pick to replace Dan Coats as the Director of National Intelligence is Rep. John Ratcliffe, a vocal conservative lawmaker whose biggest qualification, it seems, is that he yelled at Robert Mueller during last week’s hearing. Ratcliffe doesn’t have very much intelligence experience at all, which seems to have riled both Democrats and Republicans.

The New York Times ran a headline on Monday claiming that some Republicans are “cool” to the Ratcliffe nomination—not that they dig it, of course, but that they think Ratcliffe’s “too inexperienced and too partisan.” Ratcliffe loves Fox News and hates Mueller and the FBI, which is great for getting him in Trump’s good graces, but less great when it comes getting confirmed by Congress, considering the DNI is supposed to be a nonpartisan gig.

In fact, Republicans are apparently so iffy on Ratcliffe that Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, specifically warned Trump not to nominate him. Time magazine reported that Burr “told the White House last week that the move would inject more partisan politics into the work of the intelligence agencies.”


Indeed, Marco Rubio very nearly managed to say something critical. From the Times:

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida and a member of the intelligence panel, said he knew and liked Mr. Ratcliffe but acknowledged that he could have difficulty attracting broad Senate backing because of his reputation as a partisan. A critical function of the director, Mr. Rubio noted, is “to make sure that the entire intelligence community is working in an apolitical way to arrive at a set of facts that policymakers can make decisions on.”

Mr. Rubio added: “I wouldn’t say that I’m concerned that he’s incapable of doing that job. I certainly think that’s going to be an issue among Democrats and others that we’re going to have to confront, because I do think the D.N.I. needs to be someone that goes in with a strong vote of support.”


The DNI does technically need to have “extensive national security experience,” per the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, which Ratcliffe, a former federal prosecutor, does not. But we live in a world in which Ben Carson heads HUD, so, really, anything seems possible.

Coats departs on August 15. An acting DNI has yet to be named.