President Donald Trump has nominated Rep. John Ratcliffe, a Republican from Texas, to serve as the next Senate-confirmed Director of National Intelligence, and Ratcliffe’s nomination got a key boost in recent days with the announcement from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) that she would support him. She is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and just a single Republican defection could have been enough to sink Ratcliffe’s candidacy before it made it out of the committee. Ratcliffe has close to no experience in the intelligence community outside of brief service on the House Intelligence Committee, and he’s been accused of including gross exaggerations on his resume.
Collins, for her part, commented:
‘I interviewed him at great length over the phone when we were out of Washington. I asked him then and again yesterday a series of tough questions about whether he would be independent, present unvarnished analysis to the president and Congress, and he said he would.’
Ratcliffe has actually been floated as a nominee for this exact same position in the past. The first time that Trump announced plans to nominate him to serve as Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Ratcliffe withdrew after observers discovered the flaws in his resume. He’d claimed, for instance, to have prosecuted terrorism-related cases while serving as U.S. district attorney in Texas in the early 2000s, but the actual nature of what he did remains unclear. In conjunction to his second designation as Trump’s pick for DNI, the Justice Department confirmed that Ratcliffe had been assigned cases with terrorism designations, but they didn’t say what those individuals cases actually were, so it’s impossible to double check what actually happened.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, Virginia’s Mark Warner, commented:
‘While I am willing to give Mr. Ratcliffe the benefit of the doubt in the hearing, I don’t see what has changed since last summer, when the President decided not to proceed with this nomination over concerns regarding his inexperience, partisanship and past statements that seemed to embellish his record — including some particularly damaging remarks about whistleblowers, which has long been a bipartisan cause on our committee.’
Separately, however, Collins has dubiously insisted that Ratcliffe’s experience is actually well-suited to the DNI position. She claimed:
‘After questioning him in detail, I concluded that he does have the experience to meet the statutory standard to fill the position. His knowledge of cybersecurity is particularly important given the challenges our country faces. I also pressed him for his commitment to deliver objective analysis, regardless of the President’s views on an intelligence issue.’
The problem is that the U.S. does not need someone who has “knowledge of” cybersecurity. If that’s the necessary qualification, then just about anyone and everyone with a basic computer science education could be the Director of National Intelligence. However, Trump has again opted to nominate a loyalist for a key position. Ratcliffe was one of a selection of House Republicans who advised the president’s impeachment defense team during Trump’s impeachment trial, and he’s fervently shilled publicly for the president.