GOP chairman to move 'swiftly' on Ratcliffe nomination to intelligence post

GOP chairman to move 'swiftly' on Ratcliffe nomination to intelligence post
© Stefani Reynolds

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrMarsha Blackburn shares what book she's reading during Trump Senate trial GOP senator provides fidget spinners to Senate colleagues at lunch Juan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump MORE (R-N.C.) said Monday he would work “swiftly” to begin the confirmation process for Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeJordan says he thinks trial will be over by next week The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules White House appoints GOP House members to advise Trump's impeachment team MORE (R-Texas), President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump denies telling Bolton Ukraine aid was tied to investigations Former senior Senate GOP aide says Republicans should call witnesses Title, release date revealed for Bolton memoir MORE’s choice to be the next director of national intelligence.

While he did not offer an explicit endorsement of Ratcliffe, Burr said he called the Texas Republican on Sunday to “congratulate” him on the pending nomination.

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“When the White House submits its official nomination to the Senate Intelligence Committee, we will work to move it swiftly through regular order,” Burr said in a statement.

Burr noted that he looks forward to working with outgoing Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsSchiff schedules public hearing with US intel chief  Rod Rosenstein joins law and lobbying firm DHS issues bulletin warning of potential Iranian cyberattack MORE’s deputy, Sue Gordon, describing her as “a trusted partner to our Committee.”

He also praised Coats, recognizing him for making “significant progress” in addressing foreign election interference during his tenure and sounding the alarm over “growing aggression” from Russia, China and Iran.

“America is better prepared for the threats we face thanks to Dan Coats’ leadership of our Intelligence Community,” Burr said, praising the former Indiana senator for his “integrity and sound judgment.”

Trump announced Coats’s resignation in a series of tweets Sunday evening, saying the intelligence chief would leave the administration on Aug. 15. Coats clashed with Trump on a number of fronts, including Russian election interference and intelligence assessments about Iran and North Korea, during more than two years on the job.

The president also revealed Sunday that he would nominate Ratcliffe, a former federal prosecutor and one of the president’s fierce defenders in the House, for the position.

Gordon had been expected to fill the role in the interim, but Trump didn't immediately announce an acting director, saying he would do so "shortly."

Trump said he would name an acting director of national intelligence "shortly," suggesting Gordon will not fill the role in the interim since he didn't tap her on Sunday.

Ratcliffe had been rumored as a potential candidate for various administration posts. He played an integral role in GOP efforts to investigate the origins of the probe into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

More recently, Ratcliffe attracted attention for his stern questioning of Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE during congressional testimony last week, when he accused the former special counsel of not complying with Justice Department rules by declining to exonerate Trump on allegations of obstruction of justice.

Ratcliffe, a member of the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees, is likely to face questions about his qualifications during his confirmation process, as critics have argued he does not have extensive experience in the area.

Still, he’s more likely than not to be confirmed by the Senate barring major controversy, since Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the chamber. 

Ratcliffe will need to attend a conformation hearing and be approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee before his nomination goes to the Senate floor for a final vote.

Senate Republicans expressed disappointment at Coats’s resignation in public statements; few have weighed in on Ratcliffe’s nomination, though Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial Trump defense team signals focus on Schiff Trump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president MORE (R-S.C.) tweeted that the congressman “will be a worthy successor and has my full support.”

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDemocrats step up pressure over witnesses after Bolton bombshell Impeachment manager dismisses concerns Schiff alienated key Republican votes: 'This isn't about any one person' Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court MORE (R-Maine), another Intelligence Committee member, described Coats’s departure as “a huge loss to our country.”

Meanwhile, Ratcliffe has come under criticism from Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBolton book alleges Trump tied Ukraine aid freeze to Biden investigations: NYT Trump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president Impeachment has been a dud for Democrats MORE (D-N.Y.) asserted that he was selected for the role “because he exhibited blind loyalty to President Trump with his demagogic questioning of” Mueller.

“If Senate Republicans elevate such a partisan player to a position that requires intelligence expertise and non-partisanship, it would be a big mistake,” Schumer said.

Updated at 1:58 p.m.