Trump Renominates Controversial Pick for Intelligence Chief

WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump again nominated Texas Congressman John Ratcliffe to serve as director of national intelligence Friday, a move that comes just months after the Republican lawmaker’s first nomination fell apart amid closer scrutiny of his qualifications.

The nomination was announced via Twitter as the president heads to North Charleston for a campaign rally.

“I am pleased to announce the nomination of @RepRatcliffe (Congressman John Ratcliffe) to be Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Would have completed process earlier but John wanted to wait until after IG report was finished. John is an outstanding man of great talent!” Trump tweeted.

Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, speaking during a House impeachment inquiry hearing on Dec. 9, 2019. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

Ratcliffe was one of the president’s most vocal and staunch supporters when Trump was under investigation by the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees last year, which led to articles of impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The Texas Republican is a member of the House Intelligence Committee and fiercely defended Trump when former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before the committee regarding his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

To serve as permanent director, Ratcliffe must be confirmed by the Senate. If he clears that hurdle, he will replace another longtime Trump ally currently serving as acting national intelligence director: Richard Grenell.

Grenell was thrust into the temporary spot earlier this month. The president had until March 11 to fill the permanent position.

When Ratcliffe was nominated last July, the process was a bit of a rollercoaster: Trump announced the pick on Twitter following the abrupt resignation of then-director Dan Coats.

Within five days, the negative feedback from Capitol Hill began to churn and questions piled up over whether Ratcliffe had the breadth of intelligence experience – or the legal requisites – necessary to oversee 17 U.S. intelligence agencies.

The Washington Post, CBS News and other news outlets last summer cited a litany of intelligence officials and lawmakers who questioned Ratcliffe’s nomination because of his lack of foreign travel or time spent inside intelligence agency headquarters of entities like the CIA or National Security Agency.

Trump yanked Ratcliffe from the running last year but put the blame for his decision squarely on the media, saying he did not want to put the former prosecutor through “months of slander and libel.”

“I explained to John how miserable it would be for him and family to deal with these people,” Trump said last August.

The White House did not immediately respond to request for comment on Ratcliffe’s second nomination Friday.

Virginia Senator Mark Warner, who serves as the highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, threw cold water on Ratcliffe’s latest nomination earlier this week when he said he didn’t believe the bipartisan opposition to the nominee had changed.

Last July, an ABC News report revealed a series of discrepancies in Ratcliffe’s records and credentials that called the nomination into question.

A 2015 press release from the lawmaker proclaimed Ratcliffe was responsible for serving in a special appointment role in U.S. v Holy Land Foundation, a case involving a group that funneled money to the terrorist group Hamas through a charitable organization.

Ratcliffe made the same claim in 2016 on his official congressional campaign website but the ABC News investigation found no public record of his connection to the case. Four former defense attorneys who worked directly on the case also could not recall Ratcliffe’s involvement, according to the report.

Ratcliffe served as a U.S. attorney and then as the chief of anti-terrorism and national security for the Eastern District of Texas.

The Texas Republican also took credit in 2014 for the arrest of 300 immigrants.

“As U.S. attorney, I arrested 300 illegals in a single day,” he said in an interview with the Texas-based radio station KETR.

The 300 number was an embellishment by Ratcliffe of a 2008 sweep of poultry plant factories by a group of U.S. attorneys’ offices spanning five states as well as Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. It was believed the workers at the plants were using bogus Social Security numbers.

In the end, just 45 workers were charged and charges against six people were dismissed, including two workers who were U.S citizens accidentally swept up in the raid.

A.J. Irwin, a former immigration investigator, told the Washington Post last year that the sting was one of the “biggest wastes of money and hype.”

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