Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, right, is sworn in by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., standing left, before a Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing on May 5.

Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, right, is sworn in by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., standing left, before a Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing on May 5. Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times via AP

Trump's Intelligence-Chief Nominee Vows to 'Speak Truth to Power'

GOP lawmakers are seeking to speed up Rep. John Ratcliffe’s nomination, but his careful answers did not appear to satisfy skeptics.

Rep. John Ratcliffe repeatedly sought to reassure the lawmakers weighing his confirmation as President Trump’s director of national intelligence that he would not mix politics with intelligence.

At his nomination hearing on Tuesday, the Texas Republican was pressed about his independence by almost every Democrat on the socially-distanced dais. In response, Ratcliffe offered deferential thanks for their questions and sought to give unequivocal answers.

“I won’t shade intelligence for anyone,” he said. "If confirmed as the DNI, you have my commitment to deliver accurate and objective intelligence, and to speak truth to power, be that with this committee or within the administration.”

But Ratcliffe often declined to speak in specifics, demurring either on a basis of fact — ”I don't have enough information to answer your question” — or law, insisting narrowly that “whatever the law is I will do as DNI.” 

His answers did not appear to satisfy skeptics on the committee. The former Texas prosecutor is known as a staunch defender of Trump in the House and an architect of some of the House GOP’s most aggressive investigations into alleged wrongdoing inside the intelligence community, seen by critics as deeply partisan. Last year, he was withdrawn from consideration for the post when Trump first tapped him, after it appeared that he had embellished an already-thin national security resume. 

“While I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt in this hearing, I don’t see what has changed since last summer when the president decided not to proceed with your nomination over concerns about your inexperience, partisanship, and past statements that seemed to embellish your record,” committee vice chairman Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said during his opening statement. 

What has changed appears to be Republican support. Although members of both parties appeared to oppose his nomination in 2019, GOP lawmakers now appear poised to fast-track his confirmation — if only to install a permanent ODNI rather than another in the series of acting directors who have served since Dan Coats left last summer. Trump loyalist Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, currently serves as acting director.

“I think he did a very successful job verifying that he's more than capable of this job and will serve in an independent capacity if confirmed,” committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., told pool reporters after the hearing. “It’s my intent to run this nomination as quickly through the committee as — possibly next week — and then hopefully work with the majority leader to get to the floor quickly so we can have a permanent DNI in place.”

Several Republicans explicitly defended Ratcliffe from criticism over his partisanship and relative inexperience for the post. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a former Senate whip and a member of the intelligence panel, told his colleagues that Ratcliffe understands "the difference between being a legislator and being the director of national intelligence,” suggesting obliquely that concerns about Ratcliffe’s partisanship in the House have little bearing on his fitness for a role as the nation’s top spy. 

"It's my view you have pretty extensive experience," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said from the dais.

Throughout the hearing, Ratcliffe deftly avoided being placed in opposition to some of Trump’s most closely held beliefs. In particular, the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of a favored candidate — Trump — is known to incense the president. Ratcliffe affirmed that he believed the Russians had carried out an active measures campaign, but declined to support the conclusion that Moscow was seeking to help Trump get elected — because, he said, the House Intelligence Committee had found that Russia wanted to sow discord, not help Trump. 

Ratcliffe was also pressed repeatedly about his past attacks on the intelligence community whistleblower who filed the complaint last year that kicked off the House’s impeachment inquiry into Trump’s phone call with the president of Ukraine. During that process, Ratcliffe repeatedly sought to portray the whistleblower as politically motivated by a desire to undermine the president, leveling accusations that he “didn’t tell the truth.” But on Tuesday, he insisted that his concerns were with the “House process,” not the whistleblower. 

"If confirmed, every whistleblower will enjoy every protection under the law,” Ratcliffe said Tuesday. “ I don't want to re-litigate old issues of what happened during the impeachment inquiry. My issue was not with the whistleblower. My issue was with a lack of due process in the House process."

Ratcliffe’s efforts to tread a fine line of assuaging lawmaker concerns without angering the president left some lawmakers frustrated.

"You want to have it both ways. You want to try to portray yourself as a defender of the Constitution and then you water it down with the specifics," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, said. 

The hearing was the first confirmation hearing to be held amid the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers rotated in and out of the cavernous hearing room, encouraged by Burr to watch from their office until it was time for them to ask a question. Bottles of Purell dotted the dias and a bearded Burr spoke with a mask tucked under his chin. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., kept his mask over his mouth when he spoke. 

“This hearing will be a little bit different,” Burr said as he gaveled in. “It is perhaps the first hearing held during the extenuating circumstances of a pandemic.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.