Washington (AFP) – President Donald Trump’s choice of a lawmaker with limited experience to oversee the massive US intelligence community has sparked concerns over the possible politicization of crucial national security decisions.
Trump declared Tuesday that John Ratcliffe is “strong” and “talented”, two days after announcing the Republican congressman as his pick to replace Dan Coats as Director of National Intelligence, the person who coordinates the 17 agencies that make up the US intelligence community.
But strong criticism of the choice from Democrats and a tepid response from key Republicans — some say they had never met him — put a question mark over whether Ratcliffe can gain Senate confirmation.
“I’m gravely concerned when it appears that the president is trying to look for someone who will be a political loyalist rather than that independent voice standing up for the intelligence community,” said Democratic Senator John Warner.
“I don’t know John, but I look forward to getting to know him,” said Senator Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which must approve the nomination.
– Fox News commentator –
Coats, previously a longtime legislator on the Senate Intelligence Committee and US ambassador to Germany, spent 24 months as DNI quietly advancing and defending the intelligence community’s global threats assessments.
Occasionally Coats publicly challenged Trump’s rejection of those views, especially on Russia, Iran and North Korea.
Ratcliffe, by comparison, has made his name over four years in the House of Representatives as a staunch defender of the president.
Like many Trump appointees, he frequently appears on Fox News repeating conservative conspiracy theories, like alleging that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference was a political hit-job by Democrats working with US intelligence.
“So was the Trump investigation really about our national security — or was it politically motivated?” he said last year.
“John Ratcliffe is a good man,” Trump said Tuesday. “He’s a very talented guy. Strong man. It’s what we need in that position.”