Congressman John Ratcliffe said Friday that he was withdrawing his name from consideration to take over as director of national intelligence, following media scrutiny over his qualifications for the role. President Trump tweeted that Ratcliffe was “being treated very unfairly by the LameStream Media” and that he would be nominating someone else to the role “shortly.”
But the president had no sense Thursday night that Ratcliffe was having second thoughts about the job, CBS News’ Major Garrett reports, according to two sources familiar with the matter, and Mr. Trump was still operating under the assumption Ratcliffe would go through with the nomination process.
Friday morning Ratcliffe called the president to say he was out, that he had not anticipated a confirmation fight and not only misread that, but also miscalculated how difficult the confirmation fight would be among Republicans who were either lukewarm, indifferent or leaning toward hostile.
What also played a role, to a lesser extent, in Ratcliffe’s calcus was the retirement of Texas Rep. Will Hurd, which sent shockwaves through the House GOP leadership, causing them to be nervous about another House vacancy. Republican leaders wanted some stability and bringing Ratcliffe back to the House provides that.
As the president left for his golf club in Bedminster Friday, hehis view that Ratcliffe has been treated harshly by the press and had received a “chilly” reception from Democrats. He also said that a lot of the Republicans didn’t yet know Ratcliffe. Nonetheless, he said he believed Ratcliffe had made the right decision in withdrawing.
“Fake news. He’s a fine man,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “I read things that were just unfair. He’s too good. He doesn’t deserve it.”
Mr. Trump also said that he was considering the deputy director of national intelligence, Sue Gordon, to serve as acting director.
Mr. Trump also told reporters that he has a shortlist of three people for the job.
“Our great Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe is being treated very unfairly by the LameStream Media. Rather than going through months of slander and libel, I explained to John how miserable it would be for him and his family to deal with these people,” Mr. Trump tweeted.
He added, “John has therefore decided to stay in Congress where he has done such an outstanding job representing the people of Texas, and our Country. I will be announcing my nomination for DNI shortly.”
The president tweeted on Sunday that he had chosen Ratcliffe to take over the job from former DNI Dan Coats, who will leave office on Aug. 15. The president’s announcement ended months of speculation that Coats would either soon depart or be ousted from his role. Though he was among the longest-serving national security officials in the president’s cabinet, Coats’ public statements on behalf of the intelligence community occasionally ran contrary to Mr. Trump’s preferred policy outcomes, stoking the president’s ire.
Ratcliffe’s congressional bio claimed he “put terrorists in prison” during his four years as a prosecutor and U.S. attorney for eastern Texas. But his name does not appear in court documents for any terrorism-related cases.
CBS News’ Olivia Gazis reported Thursday that Ratcliffe faced questions over whether he had enough experience for the role, given hisand the demands of leading a vast intelligence community consisting of 17 agencies.
Most recently, Ratcliffe was one of the president’s fiercest defenders during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s congressional hearings. His office noted he “handled top secret, secret and confidential” information daily when he worked for the Department of Justice.
Ratcliffe said that while he remains “very grateful” to the president for his intent to nominate him to the top intelligence job, he was withdrawing his name from consideration.
“I was humbled and honored that the President put his trust in me to lead our nation’s intelligence operations and remain convinced that when confirmed, I would have done so with the objectivity, fairness and integrity that our intelligence agencies need and deserve,” Ratcliffe said in a tweet Friday afternoon.
He added, “I do not wish for a national security and intelligence debate surrounding my confirmation, however untrue, to become a purely political and partisan issue. The country we all love deserves that it be treated as an American issue. Accordingly, I have asked the President to nominate someone other than me for this position.”