Top Democrat: ‘Disqualifying’ if Trump intel pick padded his résumé

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said it would be “clearly disqualifying” if it turns out that President Trump’s nominee to serve as the director of national intelligence, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), overstated his biography.

Warner, the committee’s top Democrat, pledged that the panel “will thoroughly vet any nominee, if he’s actually put forward.” The comments come days after Trump said he would nominate Ratcliffe to the top intelligence post, an announcement met by instant controversy, with lawmakers questioning his experience for the position.

“I want to give Mr. Ratcliffe a chance to explain himself — but for an individual that’s got less actual intelligence experience than anyone that’s been put forward for any senior position in the intelligence community, that this guy has even had to take that very thin résumé and pad it, that would be clearly disqualifying,” Warner told reporters.{mosads}

Separately, Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), a senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said he would “pull out all the stops” to block Ratcliffe’s confirmation, which requires a simple-majority vote.

“I will pull out all the stops to make sure someone like this who will do so much damage to the credibility of the American intelligence community, at a critical time for our country, I’m going to do everything I can to stop this nomination,” he said.

Ratcliffe’s announced nomination was immediately met with questions on Capitol Hill about whether he has enough experience to oversee the nation’s intelligence agencies as outgoing Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats’s successor.

ABC News reported Tuesday that Ratcliffe “misrepresented his role in an anti-terrorism case that he’s repeatedly cited among his credentials related to national security issues.”

Ratcliffe claimed in a 2015 press release that he convicted individuals who funneled money to Hamas, a group designated by the State Department in 1997 as a foreign terrorist organization, but ABC News reported that it could not find any public court record linking him to the case.

The outlet also raised doubt about Ratcliffe’s claim in a February 2016 campaign website post highlighting his “special appointment as the prosecutor in U.S. v. Holy Land Foundation.”

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) declined to comment on the reports when asked about the possibility Ratcliffe padded his résumé on Thursday.

“You’re asking me to comment on a news story about someone who’s not been nominated,” Burr said, noting that Ratcliffe has yet to be formally nominated. “When he’s nominated and we do an investigation I’ll be happy to comment on what I think his qualifications are.”

Warner says the next director of national intelligence should not be someone who might politicize the position and raised concerns about Ratcliffe’s nomination in light of his harsh cross-examination of former special counsel Robert Mueller before the House Judiciary Committee last week.

Ratcliffe took Mueller to task for not presuming Trump innocent of obstruction of justice allegations and leaving open the question whether he committed a crime.

“You managed to violate every principle in the most sacred of traditions about prosecutors not offering extra-prosecutorial analysis about potential crimes that aren’t charged,” he told the special counsel.

Warner on Thursday said Ratcliffe’s performance raised serious questions about the Trump pick’s impartiality and compared him to Attorney General William Barr, whom Democrats have accused of mischaracterizing the findings of Mueller’s report.

“When we need to make sure the head of our national intelligence is willing to speak truth to power, Mr. Ratcliffe’s performance at least in the Mueller hearing was more like a Bill Barr, the attorney general’s performance, where they seem more loyal to Trump than loyal to the notion of truth and [the] independence of the intelligence community,” Warner said.

Warner said Sue Gordon, the principal deputy Director of National Intelligence, should serve as acting director until the Senate confirms someone to replace Coats.

“My fear is this administration may try to once again go around the law or fire that career professional so they can put in a political hack,” Warner told reporters, calling the prospect that Gordon’s role as acting director may be circumvented “very bothersome to me.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), another Republican Intelligence Committee member, said she hadn’t heard the reports of résumé padding but reiterated that she was wholly unfamiliar with Ratcliffe.

“I’ve yet to meet him and know very little about him. Frankly, his name was unknown to me prior to my reading the transcripts of the Mueller hearings,” Collins said.

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said the reports concerned him but wouldn’t say definitely that it would be a disqualifying factor if Ratcliffe inflated his biography.

“It’s of concern. I don’t know how to characterize it. I think it’s important to get the bottom of it. I’ve heard the ad where he cites his work and I’ve also seen reports that in fact it was exaggerated. So that will be a matter that I’m sure will be considered by the committee,” King said. 

“I’m hesitant to say it’s disqualifying,” he added, but said it was “serious.”  

Wyden called the reports of the Trump pick overstating his biography “troubling” and said he wanted to modify his earlier statement that Ratcliffe is the most unqualified nominee for the role.

“I’m going to modify that statement and say he is in fact very qualified to do an enormous amount of damage to the credibility of the intelligence community,” he said. 

Updated: 2:45 p.m.

Tags Angus King Dan Coats Donald Trump John Ratcliffe Mark Warner Richard Burr Robert Mueller Ron Wyden Susan Collins William Barr
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