Trump to nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe to replace Dan Coats as DNI

Rep. John Ratcliffe questions former special counsel Robert Mueller as Mueller testifies before the House Judiciary Committee. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump announced on Twitter Sunday that he will nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) to replace Dan Coats as director of national intelligence, confirming Axios' earlier reporting that Ratcliffe was favored for the job. Coats will leave office on August 15.

Behind the scenes: Trump was thrilled by Ratcliffe's admonishment of former special counsel Robert Mueller in last week's House Judiciary Committee hearing. "The special counsel's job, nowhere does it say that you were to conclusively determine Donald Trump's innocence or that the special counsel report should determine whether or not to exonerate him," Ratcliffe, a former prosecutor, said to Mueller.

  • "I agree with Chairman Nadler this morning when he said Donald Trump is not above the law," Ratcliffe added. "But he damn sure should not be below the law, which is where Volume II of this report puts him."
  • But while Ratcliffe's performance in the Mueller hearing helped his chances for the DNI appointment, it wasn't what put him on the president's radar. Advisers to Trump said the president was already seriously considering Ratcliffe to replace Coats. Trump had previously shortlisted Ratcliffe to replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general before he ultimately chose William Barr.
  • The New York Times' Maggie Haberman was the first to report that Ratcliffe was in the mix to replace Coats as DNI. And CNN reported that Ratcliffe was under consideration for an unspecified job in the administration.

The big picture: Trump has been mulling replacing Coats since at least February, as Axios recently reported. The director of national intelligence serves as an overseer of the U.S. intelligence community and a close adviser to the president and National Security Council, producing each day's top-secret Presidential Daily Brief.

  • Trump has privately said he thinks the Office of the Director of National Intelligence represents an unnecessary bureaucratic layer and that he would like to get rid of it. He has been told that eliminating the ODNI is not politically possible, but he would still like to "downsize" the office, the source said.

Between the lines: Coats has rankled Trump more than once with his public comments, according to sources with direct knowledge. He angered Trump when he appeared to criticize the president's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin during an on-stage interview with NBC's Andrea Mitchell at last year's Aspen Security Forum.

  • And he drew Trump's ire again in January when he told a Senate panel that North Korea was unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons, contradicting the president's cheerier assessments.
  • When I reported on Coats' impending departure earlier this month, Coats said in a statement provided by ODNI: "I am focused on doing my job, and it is frustrating to repeatedly be asked to respond to anonymous sources and unsubstantiated, often false rumors that undercut the critical work of the Intelligence Community and its relationship with the President.
  • "I am proud to lead an IC singularly focused on the vital mission of providing timely and unbiased intelligence to President Trump, Vice President Pence and the national security team in support of our nation’s security."

Additional Stories

Trump prepares to announce Amy Coney Barrett as Supreme Court replacement

Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Photo: Matt Cashore/Notre Dame University via Reuters

President Trump is preparing to nominate federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana, a favorite of both the social conservative base and Republican elected officials, to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republican sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Barrett would push the already conservative court further and harder to the right, for decades to come, on the most important issues in American politics — from abortion to the limits of presidential power. If confirmed, she would give conservatives a 6-3 majority on the high court.

Trump risk rises for companies

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Donald Trump fancies himself a businessman — and has given himself a central role in determining the conduct and even the existence of major companies both domestic and foreign.

Why it matters: America has historically been a great place to operate a company under the rule of law, and not be beholden to political whim. Those days seem to be over — at least for companies in the communications industry.

China's split personality on climate

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new insta-analysis of China's vow to achieve "carbon neutrality" before 2060 helps to underscore why Tuesday's announcement sent shockwaves through the climate and energy world.

Why it matters: Per the Climate Action Tracker, a research group, following through would lower projected global warming 0.2 to 0.3°C. That's a lot!

California war over gas-free cars

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The fate of California's aggressive moves to wring carbon emissions out of transportation could depend heavily on the election and the shape of the Supreme Court.

Why it matters: California is the country's largest auto market and transportation is the country's largest source of CO2.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died of metastatic pancreatic cancer at age 87, the Supreme Court announced Friday evening.

The big picture: Ginsburg had suffered from serious health issues over the past few years. As an attorney and then as a justice Ginsburg cemented a legacy as one of the foremost champions of women's rights, raising gender equality to a constitutional issue. Her death sets up a fight over filling a Supreme Court seat with less than 50 days until the election.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1:30 a.m. ET: 32,995,554 — Total deaths: 996,695 — Total recoveries: 22,850,774Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 1:30 a.m. ET: 7,115,008 — Total deaths: 204,756 — Total recoveries: 2,766,280 — Total tests: 101,298,794Map.
  3. States: 3 states set single-day coronavirus case records last week
  4. Health: The long-term pain of the mental health pandemic
  5. World: India second country after U.S. to surpass 6 million cases

Democrats demand Trump release his tax returns after NYT report

Compilation images of House Nancy Pelosi and President Trump. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Democrats called on President Trump to disclose his tax returns following a New York Times report alleging he paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 and nothing in 10 of the past 15 years.

Details: Trump said the report was "total fake news," that he's unable to release the returns as they're "under audit" by the IRS, "which does not treat me well." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement the report "provides further evidence of the clear need" for a House lawsuit to access the tax returns and "ensure the presidential audit program is functioning effectively, without improper influence."

Former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale hospitalized

Brad Parscale, the former campaign manager for President Trump's re-election campaign, at Drake University in January in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

Fort Lauderdale police arrived at former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale's home on Sunday after his wife called and said he was threatening to harm himself, Florida officials confirmed to Axios.

Details: Fort Lauderdale Police Sgt. DeAnna Greenlaw told Axios officers responded to a report of "an armed male attempting suicide" just before 4 p.m. local time.

Read more at Axios
© Copyright Axios 2020