Trump's new pick for national intelligence director is good at one thing: Defending Trump


Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX), Trump's pick for the director of national intelligence, is a fervent loyalist and attack dog.

Dan Coats, Trump's besieged director of national intelligence since March of 2017, resigned on Sunday. While Coats was plenty conservative, his replacement, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX), is likely to be much, much worse.

The resignation wasn't a surprise, as Coats had clashed with Trump over Russia and North Korea, among other things. As the New York Times put it, Coats' departure "removes one of the most prominent national security officials willing to contradict the president."

By contrast, Ratcliffe doesn't appear to be willing to contradict Trump about anything. He has already proven he'll be an attack dog for Trump. As Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer put it, Ratcliffe got the nod because he "exhibited blind loyalty to President Trump with his demagogic questioning of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller."

During Mueller's appearance before the House last week, Ratcliffe went after him, arguing that Mueller wasn't allowed to say he couldn't exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice. Under Ratcliffe's reasoning, since the special counsel can't bring charges, he can't say a target was not exonerated. He dramatically declared — based on this faulty reasoning — that "Volume II of this [special counsel] report was not authorized under the law to be written."

Of course, this makes no sense. Mueller couldn't bring charges against Trump because of an existing Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion that says a sitting president can't be indicted. Under Ratcliffe's logic, since that opinion exists, no one can ever say Trump committed a crime.

Ratcliffe went on Fox News on Sunday morning and doubled down on his defense of Trump. He explained that the Democrats and Robert Mueller "requir[ed] Trump to conclusively prove his innocence" and therefore deprived him of a presumption of innocence. To the contrary, Trump was afforded an extraordinary presumption of innocence. Thanks to the OLC opinion, he literally cannot be charged with a crime. Ratcliffe is a former U.S. attorney, but you'd never know it from this sort of haphazard analysis.

He's equally confused about impeachment, declaring to Fox that "you can't impeach somebody over obstruction of justice where you use the wrong legal standard, a legal standard that doesn't exist." Simply because Trump is immune from criminal prosecution, it doesn't magically make him immune from impeachment proceedings.

There are some people Ratcliffe thinks should be prosecuted, though: people that served in the Obama administration. He complained there has been no "accountability" for Obama officials who committed crimes. Those "crimes" are the same fever dream conspiracy theories Trump and other conservatives have been clinging to: the origins of the Steele dossier, former FBI Director James Comey's actions, and so on.

If confirmed, Ratcliffe will oversee and coordinate action between all U.S. intelligence agencies. Specifically, he'll be responsible for things like cybersecurity. At a time when Trump absolutely refuses to acknowledge Russian interference with elections, it does not bode well that a loyalist like Ratcliffe would be in charge.

Trump is going to continue weeding out any Cabinet members with a shred of independence and replace them with people just like Ratcliffe.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.