Susan Collins says she will vote for Trump's intelligence chief nominee

Susan Collins says she will vote for Trump's intelligence chief nominee
© Bonnie Cash

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall MORE (R-Maine) said on Wednesday that she will support Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeThis Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead DOJ charges two Iranians with interference in 2020 election In dramatic shift, national intelligence director does not rule out 'extraterrestrial' origins for UFOs MORE's (R-Texas) nomination to be the next director of national intelligence.

Collins's support all but guarantees Ratcliffe will have the votes necessary to advance out of the Intelligence Committee with a favorable recommendation.

"I interviewed him at great length over the phone when we were out of Washington," Collins told The Hill. "I asked him then and again yesterday a series of tough questions about whether he would be independent, present unvarnished analysis to the president and Congress, and he said he would."

ADVERTISEMENT

Asked if she was supporting Ratcliffe's nomination, she replied, "I am."

Collins, a moderate senator who faces a tough reelection fight, was viewed as the most likely potential swing vote on the committee, where Republicans hold a one-seat majority. No Democrat has suggested they will support Ratcliffe's nomination.

If Ratcliffe's nomination makes it to the Senate floor, he'll be able to lose the support of three GOP senators and still be confirmed if Vice President Pence breaks a tie. No GOP senator has said they will vote against Ratcliffe, though several have not taken a public position on his nomination.

Collins's decision to vote for Ratcliffe comes after he appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

Collins asked Ratcliffe during the hearing if he would "communicate the intelligence community’s analytical views to the president, even if you knew that he would strongly disagree with them." She also asked if he would do so "even if you believed it would place your job in jeopardy?"

Ratcliffe replied "of course" to both questions.

Collins also spoke on the phone with Ratcliffe last week as he made the rounds with members of the committee.

"After questioning him in detail, I concluded that he does have the experience to meet the statutory standard to fill the position," she said.

Collins said in Tuesday's hearing that she asked Ratcliffe during their phone call if he agreed with Trump that the intelligence community had "run amok and needs to be reined in."

Ratcliffe replied that "what [Trump] says or how he says them ... will not impact the intelligence that I deliver."

Trump initially said last year that he intended to nominate Ratcliffe to the post, but the Texas congressman withdrew his name from consideration amid reports that he inflated his résumé.

He's gained a reputation as a loyalist to Trump, including serving as part of a group of House Republicans who were advisers to the president's impeachment team.

But during his confirmation hearing, Ratcliffe vowed that he would be independent if confirmed to be the director of national intelligence (DNI), a position that has been filled in an acting capacity since August 2019 when then-Director Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsAn independent commission should review our National Defense Strategy Overnight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race MORE stepped down. GOP senators, in particular, have signaled they are ready to have a Senate-confirmed DNI.

Democrats, during Tuesday's hearing, said Ratcliffe did not directly answer their questions.

"He was ... very well briefed but I just don't see any evidence that he's going to speak truth to power," Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenLobbyists turn to infrastructure law's implementation Democrats plow ahead as Manchin yo-yos Overnight Energy & Environment — House passes giant climate, social policy bill MORE (D-Ore.) told reporters after the hearing.