Speed Reads

audience of one

GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe's Mueller grilling wasn't an audition to be Trump's intelligence chief, allies insist

President Trump met with Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) on July 19 to discuss replacing Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who submitted his resignation letter on Sunday, nine days later, The New York Times reports. Coats, one of the last and "most prominent national security officials willing to contradict the president," told Trump "last week that it was time to move on," the Times says. Ratcliffe is considered a Trump loyalist and has espoused similarly critical views of the FBI and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Ratcliffe's views were on display during his early and aggressive questioning of Mueller on Wednesday. "His performance earned him attention among conservatives as well as an invitation to appear on Fox News on Sunday," and Trump was apparently impressed with his exchange with Mueller, the Times notes. But people close to Ratcliffe say he "was voicing views of the investigation that he truly believes," not auditioning for Coats' job.

Intelligence veterans expressed alarm at Ratcliffe's expected politicization of the U.S. intelligence community and lack of relevant experience — the law requires the DNI to have "extensive national security expertise," the Times reports — and even some Republicans, like Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), "privately express concern" that "Ratcliffe is too political for the post." Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wasn't private, tweeting Sunday that "it's clear Rep. Ratcliffe was selected because he exhibited blind loyalty to" Trump, and "if Senate Republicans elevate such a partisan player to a position requiring intelligence expertise & non-partisanship, it'd be a big mistake." Like Burr, other Democrats praised Coats and didn't mention Ratcliffe.