Ratcliffe rebuts criticism over experience for DNI nomination

Ratcliffe rebuts criticism over experience for DNI nomination
© Greg Nash

Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeGerman lawmaker, US ambassador to Germany trade jabs The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Americans debate life under COVID-19 risks The Memo: Trump agenda rolls on amid pandemic MORE (R-Texas), President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation Stocks open mixed ahead of Trump briefing on China The island that can save America MORE’s nominee to be director of national intelligence, pushed back against Democrats' claims he’s not qualified for the position, saying he’s been involved in intelligence matters for years.

"I have been handling national security issues as far back as 2005," Ratcliffe said in an exclusive interview on CBS News. "I have spent four years at the Justice Department in charge of sensitive matters of national security, anti-terrorism investigations. For the last five years I have been legislating almost exclusively on national security issues."

The rebuttal comes after Trump tapped Ratcliffe for the top intelligence role Friday, reviving concerns from Democrats that sunk the Texas Republican’s first nomination for the post last year.

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Ratcliffe, a former U.S. attorney who sits on both the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, is known to be a staunch White House ally.

The Texas lawmaker boosted his profile within the GOP and among Trump’s associates with his questioning of witnesses during former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE's probe and the House’s impeachment investigation. 

However, his lack of experience in an intelligence agency alarmed some senators, and his nomination led to renewed criticism that the president was seeking to fill an apolitical vacancy with a partisan ally.

"The last time this nomination was unsuccessfully put forward, serious bipartisan questions were raised about Rep. Ratcliffe’s background and qualifications," Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks Trump signs order targeting social media firms' legal protections On The Money: US tops 100,000 coronavirus deaths with no end in sight | How lawmaker ties helped shape Fed chairman's COVID-19 response | Tenants fear mass evictions MORE (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted Friday. "It’s hard for me to see how anything new has happened to change that." 

“With this nomination, President Trump has shown once again his lack of respect for the rule of law and the intelligence community. Republicans must join Democrats in swiftly rejecting the nomination of Mr. Ratcliffe," added Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

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However, Ratcliffe said he does in fact bring applicable experience to the intelligence role from his time in the House and that serving in an intelligence agency should not be a prerequisite.

"I have not served in an intelligence agency. I think that bringing a different experience today is really going to be vitally important — all of the experience in the world isn't helpful without judgment, and I think what we have seen is that some of our most experienced intelligence officials have gotten it wrong, like regarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act," Ratcliffe said. 

"I hope to bring incredible experience regarding national security and intelligence from all of the different vantage points that I have had into a modern day intelligence community to address all of these threats," he said.