Trump Pick for Intelligence Chief Withdraws Nomination

Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, questions former special counsel Robert Mueller about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election on July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (CN) – John Ratcliffe, the Texas Republican congressman in line to take over as the director of national intelligence, is withdrawing from consideration for the job, President Donald Trump said Friday.

“Our great Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe is being treated very unfairly by the LameStream Media,” Trump tweeted Friday. “Rather than going through months of slander and libel, I explained to John how miserable it would be for him and his family to deal with these people. John has therefore decided to stay in Congress where he has done such an outstanding job representing the people of Texas, and our country.”

Trump announced at the end of July that he was going to put Ratcliffe up to replace outgoing Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, but the Republican congressman received a cold welcome in the Senate, with even some GOP members giving tepid reactions to his nomination.

Trump never formally nominated him for the job, but Ratcliffe confirmed on Friday afternoon he was pulling out of consideration for the position in a tweet of his own.

“While I am and will remain very grateful to the president for his intention to nominate me as director of national intelligence, I am withdrawing from consideration,” Ratcliffe tweeted.

Democrats have accused Ratcliffe, a close Trump ally, of exaggerating his background working on terrorism cases as a federal prosecutor. The New York Times earlier this week reported Ratcliffe had overstated his involvement in one high-profile prosecution of a Muslim charity that sent money to Hamas and in a large immigration prosecution.

Ratcliffe has been critical of investigations into Trump, including former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and was at the head of the Republican push to investigate the origins of the inquiry.

Democrats have therefore said Ratcliffe is too political a choice for the position, which oversees the U.S. intelligence community, including the CIA.

“Thank goodness,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement in response to Ratcliffe’s withdrawal. “Rep. Ratcliffe never should have been considered in the first place.”

Senator Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement Friday he will work to confirm Trump’s next choice for the job.

“I respect John Ratcliffe’s decision to withdraw his name from consideration for director of national intelligence and I appreciate him considering serving his nation in a new role,” Burr said in a statement. “I am grateful that he will continue serving the people of Texas in the House.”

Virginia Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said Trump should choose someone similar to Coats to take over the position.

“The president should take this opportunity to nominate a DNI in the mold of Dan Coats: someone with a deep knowledge of the intelligence community, respect for the hard work intelligence professionals do to keep us safe and the independence and integrity to speak truth to power when necessary,” Warner said in a statement.

Coats is set to leave the job on Aug. 15.

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