Trump Nominee to Lead US Intelligence Promises ‘Unvarnished Truth’

More than eight months after he was first tapped to lead U.S. intelligence efforts, Congressman John Ratcliffe repeatedly pledged to skeptical lawmakers that he would abandon partisan politics and provide the president and top policymakers the “unvarnished truth,” no matter what they wanted to hear. “What anyone wants the intelligence to reflect won’t impact the intelligence that I deliver,” the Texas Republican told fellow lawmakers, should he be confirmed as director of national intelligence. “It won’t be shaded for anyone.” Ratcliffe’s journey to Tuesday’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a mostly empty chamber due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, has been an unusual one.   An ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, right, adjusts his mask while talking to Vice Chairman Sen. Mark Warner, at a hearing to consider Rep. John Ratcliffe to be Director of National Intelligence, May 5, 2020.“I’ll speak plainly. I still have some of the same doubts now as I had back in August,” said Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chair Mark Warner, though he also said he was willing to give Ratcliffe the “benefit of the doubt.” Targeting Russian meddling One of the biggest concerns for Warner and other Democratic lawmakers has been the Trump administration’s reaction to the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, with the ultimate aim of helping then-candidate Trump. Sen. Dianne Feinstein listens during a Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing for Rep. John Ratcliffe on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 5, 2020.Other Democrats pushed Ratcliffe over the issue of protecting intelligence community whistleblowers. Sen. Diane Feinstein accused Ratcliffe of “participation in President Trump’s campaign to punish and discredit” the CIA whistleblower whose complaint set the impeachment process in motion. “My issue was not with the whistleblower,” Ratcliffe said. “My issue was with what I perceived as a lack of due process in the House (impeachment) process.” “I want to make it very clear, if confirmed as DNI, every whistleblower, past present and future, will enjoy every protection under the law,” he said. Following the hearing, committee chairman and fellow Republican Sen. Richard Burr endorsed Ratcliffe, saying he hoped to quickly send the nomination to the full Senate for a vote. “After hearing from Congressman Ratcliffe today, I believe he understands the challenges facing the Intelligence Community in the 21st century and is ready to work to meet them,” Burr said in a statement.  Concerns about partisanship Some former intelligence officials were not as impressed with Ratcliffe’s performance. Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a former senior CIA official who once headed the agency’s Europe division, tweeted that Ratcliffe’s testimony on Russian election interference should be an “instant disqualification.” Won’t answer a question as to whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election is instant disqualification. This Hearing is a dance of the surreal.— Rolf Mowatt-Larssen (@AmericanMystic) May 5, 2020 “Means he won’t defend IC (intelligence community) conclusions even when definitive,” Mowatt-Larssen added. “He can’t be counted upon to stand up to Russia when US interests are threatened.” Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who served under President Barack Obama, told VOA before the hearing that Ratcliffe’s relationship with the intelligence agencies going forward bears watching. “If he’s confirmed, we’ll have to see how he performs,” Clapper said. ”If he behaves as strictly a Trump loyalist, there will be a lot of blowback from the ranks.” If confirmed, Ratcliffe would be the first permanent director of national intelligence since last August, when then-DNI Dan Coats resigned. The post is currently filled by Richard Grenell, known as a Trump loyalist, who replaced former Acting Director Joseph Maguire.   Maguire was reportedly ousted after a top aide told lawmakers in a classified briefing that Russia was seeking to get Trump reelected. 


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