Today Donald Trump pulled the nomination of GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe as Director of National Intelligence, not that Trump had a choice after Ratliffe was busted with a fake resume.
President Trump’s choice to lead the nation’s intelligence community often cites a massive roundup of immigrant workers at poultry plants in 2008 as a highlight of his career. Rep. John Ratcliffe claims that as a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of Texas, he was the leader of the immigration crackdown, describing it as one of the largest cases of its kind.
“As a U.S. Attorney, I arrested over 300 illegal immigrants on a single day,” Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) says on his congressional website.
But a closer look at the case shows that Ratcliffe’s claims conflict with the court record and the recollections of others who participated in the operation — at a time when he is under fire for embellishing his record.
Ratcliffe played a supporting role in the 2008 sweep, which involved U.S. attorneys’ offices in five states and was led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, according to a Justice Department news release. The effort targeted workers at poultry processor Pilgrim’s Pride who were suspected of using stolen Social Security numbers.
Only 45 workers were charged by prosecutors in Ratcliffe’s office, court documents show. Six of those cases were dismissed, two of them because the suspects turned out to be American citizens. One of those citizens, a 19-year-old woman, was awakened in her home and hauled away by immigration agents, the woman said in an interview.
Two people involved in the planning or execution of the enforcement effort said they could not recall Ratcliffe playing a central role.
Trump announced on Twitter this afternoon that Ratcliffe would not be accepting the nomination. With Coats stepping down, that leaves Deputy DNI Sue Gordon in charge. Or it would, except she is not seen as sufficiently loyal to Dear Leader.
The White House is planning to block Sue Gordon, the nation’s No. 2 intelligence official, from rising to the role of acting director of national intelligence when Dan Coats steps down this month, according to people familiar with the Trump administration’s plans.
The decision to circumvent Ms. Gordon, who has served as the principal deputy director in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, will probably upset Republicans and Democrats in the Senate. They have expressed doubts about Representative John Ratcliffe, Republican of Texas, who is President Trump’s choice to be the next Senate-confirmed leader of the agency.
Mr. Trump did not allow Ms. Gordon to personally deliver a recent intelligence briefing after she arrived at the White House, according to a person familiar with the matter. A spokeswoman for the Office of the Director of the National Intelligence, Amanda J. Schoch, said Ms. Gordon was not blocked from attending any recent briefing, but she declined to comment about what happened inside the Oval Office.
Opposition in the White House to letting her serve as acting director has raised the question of whether she will be ousted as part of a leadership shuffle at the intelligence director’s office that will be more to Mr. Trump’s liking.
A federal statute says that if the position of director of national intelligence becomes vacant, the deputy director — currently Ms. Gordon — shall serve as acting director.
But there appears to be a loophole: The law gives the White House much more flexibility in choosing who to appoint as the acting deputy if the No. 2 position is vacant, said Robert M. Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who specializes in national-security legal issues.
Ms. Gordon will retire if told by the White House that Mr. Trump wants someone else in the deputy’s role who could then rise to fill the vacancy created when Mr. Coats departs, according to officials.
So Coats is gone in two weeks, Gordon will be gone shortly, Ratcliffe won't be confirmed so he was pulled, and that means the search is on for a semi-permanent Acting DNI.
The Trump administration is taking inventory of many of America’s top spies, The Daily Beast has learned. The White House recently asked the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) for a list of all its employees at the federal government’s top pay scale who have worked there for 90 days or more, according to two sources familiar with the request.
The request appears to be part of the White House’s search for a temporary director of national intelligence—a prospect that raises concerns in some quarters about political influence over the intelligence community.
The request, which specifically asks for people in ODNI at the GS-15 level (the pay grade for most top government employees, including supervisors) or higher, comes as ODNI’s leadership faces turmoil. Earlier this week, President Trump tweeted that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats will step down on Aug. 15, and that he plans to nominate Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe for the post. But Ratcliffe faces a contentious confirmation process that’s all but certain to stretch past the 15th, and the White House needs someone to take the DNI role in the meantime.
According to federal law, ODNI’s Senate-confirmed second-in-command—the principal deputy director of national intelligence, currently Sue Gordon—steps in if the DNI departs. Gordon, who has spent decades in the intelligence community, is revered there and on Capitol Hill. But as a career intelligence official, she isn’t viewed as Team MAGA. And the White House is reportedly eyeingways to put someone they trust in the top role after Coats departs.
That may not be as easy as it sounds. As Bobby Chesney of the University of Texas School of Law detailed at Lawfare, the law indicates that if both the DNI post and the post Gordon currently holds are vacant, then the president could choose from a fairly wide pool of people to take Gordon’s post and, therefore, become acting DNI. That includes any Senate-confirmed officials in the Executive Branch, and any senior employee who’s been at ODNI for 90 days or more—in other words, anyone on the list the White House just requested from ODNI.
It’s unclear why the White House asked ODNI for that list, but a search to replace Gordon appears to be the most likely explanation. A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
So the plan will be the Trump Cabinet Special: oust the insufficiently loyal sap who wouldn't sign off on Trump's authoritarian rule, find a temp who will, let them run the place as long as it takes to find a confirmable yes-man.
And let's remember not even Mitch McConnell could deliver on Ratcliffe's confirmation.