Susan Collins withholding judgment on Trump's top intelligence pick

Susan Collins withholding judgment on Trump's top intelligence pick
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Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate eyes quick exit after vote on coronavirus stimulus package The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Trump, Dems close in on deal Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Trump signals easing coronavirus restrictions | Tensions boil over as Senate fails to advance stimulus bill | Pelosi previews .5T House stimulus package MORE (R-Maine), a key member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Tuesday said she does not know much about Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeActing director of National Counterterrorism Center fired: report Acting director of national intelligence begins hiring freeze: reports The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the APTA - A huge night for Joe Biden MORE (R-Texas), who has been selected by President TrumpDonald John TrumpDefense industrial base workers belong at home during this public health crisis Maduro pushes back on DOJ charges, calls Trump 'racist cowboy' House leaders hope to vote Friday on coronavirus stimulus MORE to serve as director of national intelligence (DNI) and has been accused of inflating his résumé.

Collins is a pivotal vote on Ratcliffe’s nomination, as Republicans control 10 seats on the Senate Intelligence panel while Democrats have nine. One Republican defection could bottle up the nominee in committee.

“I don’t know Congressman Ratcliffe. As the author of the 2004 law that created the director of national intelligence position, I obviously am very concerned about who the nominee is, the qualifications and the commitment to overseeing the intelligence community in order to provide the best quality intelligence,” she told reporters.

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“I look forward to his hearing and to raising these issues with him,” she added.

Ratcliffe’s name was floated over the summer as a replacement to former DNI Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsExperts report recent increase in Chinese group's cyberattacks Acting director of national intelligence begins hiring freeze: reports Ratcliffe nomination puts Susan Collins in tough spot MORE but was pulled back after bipartisan opposition.

Lawmakers at the time raised questions about his qualifications and allegations that he exaggerated his track record as a federal prosecutor working on terrorism cases.

Ratcliffe emerged again last Friday when Trump nominated him as a permanent replacement to acting DNI Richard Grenell, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany, who has come under fire himself for his lack of experience in intelligence matters.

Collins last week said Grenell did not have enough experience to head the nation's intelligence community, and Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerCOVID-19, Bill Barr and the American authoritarian tradition Cuomo calls T stimulus 'reckless,' says it fails to meet New York's needs Government oil purchase in jeopardy without stimulus funding MORE (N.Y.) asked the Department of Justice to investigate Grenell's past work for foreign clients.

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Grenell would have had to step down from his post as acting DNI had Trump not nominated a permanent replacement by March 11. He will now be able to serve in the job at least another six months or until the Senate confirms a permanent successor.

Trump formally sent Ratcliffe's nomination to the Senate on Monday.

Ratcliffe ran into trouble last year when his name was circulated as a possible replacement for Coats. Critics questioned his level of experience and accused him of inflating his résumé.

He claimed in a 2015 press release that he had “convicted individuals” who funneled money to Hamas through a charitable organization, and his campaign claimed in February of 2016 that he had been appointed to prosecute “one of the nation’s largest terrorism financing cases.”

News organizations, however, could not find records of Ratcliffe’s participation in the trial, and an aide later told The New York Times that Ratcliffe had only investigated side issues related to an initial mistrial.

If Collins votes against Ratcliffe and all Democrats oppose his nomination, it would fail in committee by a 7-8 vote.

Senate Republican leaders don’t usually advance nominations that fail to pass in committee.

“I can’t imagine we’d take somebody up that wouldn’t come out of committee with a favorable vote,” said Senate Republican Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump's magical thinking won't stop the coronavirus pandemic Lawmakers brace for more coronavirus legislation after trillion bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senate overcomes hurdles, passes massive coronavirus bill MORE (S.D.) on Tuesday.

Updated at 12:17 p.m.