A week ago, Rep. John Ratcliffe, a three-term Congressman from Texas, took part in an aggressive and coordinated Republican grilling of former special counsel, Robert Mueller. One particular viewer was so impressed that on Sunday, he appointed Ratcliffe his Director of National Intelligence. As the new week dawned, serious concerns mounted about the former mayor of Heath’s qualifications, and questions arose surrounding the one-time U.S. Attorney’s resume and credentials. By Tuesday, Senate Republicans took a “wait-and-see” approach to President Trump’s DNI pick. And, on Friday, he was withdrawn by tweet. Just another week in the Trump administration.
At particular issue was Ratcliffe’s tenure within the Department of Justice and as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas. In Ratcliffe’s official House of Representatives biography, he claimed to have “arrested 300 illegal aliens in a single day.” Per an investigation by the Washington Post, Ratcliffe played a supporting role in arresting 45 people accused of being illegal immigrants. Two turned out to be American citizens. He also claimed to have “convicted individuals who were funneling money to Hamas behind the front of a charitable organization.” However, per Brad Heath of USA Today, the only “terrorism” case to which he was assigned that resulted in a conviction “was the prosecution of Kenneth Kanyayi, who was accused of using someone else’s Social Security number to gain employment.” Ratcliffe also appears to have boasted appointment to a role— “Chief of Anti-Terrorism and National Security in the Eastern District of Texas”— that does not exist.
In tweets Friday, Trump announced that Ratcliffe had withdrawn himself from consideration, and “decided to stay in Congress,” due to “being treated very unfairly by the LameStream Media.” It’s not clear who will ultimately replace Dan Coats as DNI, when he steps down August 15, only that Trump tweeted he will be announcing his nomination shortly. Whoever it may be, Trump appeared later, after accusing the press of “slander and libel,” to outsource the vetting process to them. Clearly frustrated, Trump insisted, “you vet for me.” He continued, “I like when you vet . . . When I give a name, I give it out to the press and you vet for me . . . We save a lot of money that way.”
While record high turnover seems to be a hallmark of this administration, less attention is given to the even higher number of nominees for cabinet posts, independent agencies, and judgeships who have withdrawn, been withdrawn, or rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate. Ratcliffe’s is the 66th such nomination to die in confirmation purgatory. Trump is also well known for preferring “actors” to full-time officials. There are two acting secretaries and one acting cabinet-level administrator currently serving. Not only are temporary heads of departments and agencies seen as being easier to control, they are seen, by their very nature, as a way of skirting the Senate confirmation process altogether.
Trump had frequently feuded with the intelligence community, on issues foreign and domestic, so his choice of Ratcliffe was meant to “rein in” intelligence agencies. That effort took a major hit on Friday. No one in the Senate, outside a couple of friends who served with him in the House, was particularly enthused about his nomination. Democrats were ready, on the other hand, to line up against him. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) set the tone the night he was nominated, stating his sole qualification for the job must have been “blind loyalty to President Trump.”
Clearly, the intelligence community didn’t want Ratcliffe and a lot of levers went into action to block him. Draining the Swamp has proven to be a tough nut for Trump to crack. This round went to the Swamp.