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Ratcliffe Isn’t Qualified to Be DNI

Trump has chosen Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas to replace Dan Coats as Director of National Intelligence (DNI). The good news is that Ratcliffe isn’t Fred Fleitz, who was rumored as a possible replacement, but that appears to be where the good news ends. The Director of National Intelligence is required by law to be someone with “extensive national security expertise.” One can argue about how much expertise it takes for it to be “extensive,” but Ratcliffe doesn’t appear to have any and the little bit of experience with related issues that he claims to have has been exaggerated:

Aides to the congressman chosen by President Trump to lead the nation’s intelligence agencies were forced on Tuesday to clarify his claims that he had won terrorism convictions as a federal prosecutor, as his background came under new scrutiny.

Mr. Trump’s pick, Representative John Ratcliffe, Republican of Texas, had said on his House website and in campaign material that he had tried suspects accused of funneling money to the Hamas terrorist group. But instead, an aide said, Mr. Ratcliffe had investigated side issues related to an initial mistrial, and did not prosecute the case either in that proceeding or in a successful second trial.

Politicians exaggerate and embellish their records during campaigns, but that is exactly the sort of thing we don’t want in someone entrusted with overseeing the intelligence community.

One important objection to this nomination is that Trump has chosen someone who clearly doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for the position. Garrett Graff compares Ratcliffe’s record with those of previous DNIs:

Ratcliffe’s experience pales in comparison to any of his would-be predecessors. He served as the mayor of Heath, Texas—population 8,000—for a decade, and while he did a brief stint as a politically appointed US attorney in Texas in the final months of George W. Bush’s administration, his résumé on national security matters is practically nonexistent.

There are also concerns that Ratcliffe is too much of a partisan and Trump loyalist to do the job properly. Trump wanted to get rid of Coats primarily because Coats kept telling him things he didn’t want to hear, and Coats also kept telling Congress and the public things that contradicted the president’s fantasies. Perhaps Ratcliffe could do the same thing that Coats did, but that seems unlikely. He isn’t being chosen for his relevant expertise, since he doesn’t have any, and so that tells us he is being chosen to act as Trump’s yes-man. Graff continues:

Ratcliffe seems to appeal to Trump for the same reason most of the sycophants around him do: Loyalty first and foremost to No. 1. But the DNI is not supposed to walk through the door of the Oval Office attempting to please the president—he is supposed to tell the president whatever he needs to hear, consequences be damned.

Trump wants nothing of the kind. Instead, as he told reporters Tuesday afternoon, “We need somebody strong that can really rein it in. Because as I think you’ve all learned, the intelligence agencies have run amok. They’ve run amok.”

Ratcliffe isn’t qualified to be DNI. He doesn’t even meet the statutory requirement to hold the position. It seems that he nominated because he was a vocal defender of the president and for no other reason, and that makes it even worse. If they take their responsibilities seriously, the Senate can’t confirm Ratcliffe in this position.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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