President Donald Trump has nominated Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) to replace Dan Coats as the director of national intelligence, and the selection of a Trump stalwart for a sensitive nonpartisan role has drawn deep concern among Democrats and little enthusiasm among some Republicans.
That unease extends to the Senate Intelligence Committee, where Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sounded the alarm Monday.
In an unusually strident news release, Wyden called Ratcliffe “the most partisan and least qualified individual ever nominated to serve as Director of National Intelligence” and warned he’s not much more than a Trump acolyte:
“The sum total of his qualifications appears to be his record of promoting Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories about the investigation into Russian interference and calling for prosecution of Trump’s political enemies,” Wyden said.
“Furthermore, he has endorsed widespread government surveillance and shown little concern for Americans’ rights,” Wyden added, “except for those of Donald Trump and his close associates.”
Ratcliffe is a former prosecutor who has limited experience in intelligence oversight.
“Confirming this individual would amount to an endorsement of this administration’s drive to politicize our intelligence agencies,” Wyden warned. “This is a dangerous time, and America needs the most qualified and objective individuals possible to lead our intelligence agencies. Anything less risks American lives.”
Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) told CNN on Monday, “To be honest, I really don’t know anything about the gentleman, the congressman, he’s talking about selecting. You know, this was kind of a sudden thing. So that’s something that we’ll be looking at.”
Coats’ departure had been rumored going back to at least the summer of 2018, when Trump publicly dismissed U.S. intelligence findings of Russian meddling in the 2016 election while standing alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
Coats responded in a statement affirming the intelligence community’s commitment to providing “the best information and fact-based assessments possible for the president and policymakers” and said that it “will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.”