Trump Wants to Replace DNI Dan Coats with a Leading Mueller Critic [UPDATED]

Trump Administration

Update, Sunday, 4:55 p.m. ET: Donald Trump confirmed on Twitter Sunday afternoon that he will nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe to be the next Director of National Intelligence. That nomination will be subject to Senate confirmation.

The current DNI, Dan Coats, will leave the post on Aug. 15, Trump said.

Yet another acting director will be named “shortly,” he added.

Original post continues here:

It looks like Rep. John Ratcliffe, a staunchly conservative Republican lawmaker from Texas, has passed his audition for an audience of one to replace Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

Ratcliffe, a former federal prosecutor and ex-mayor of Heath, TX, population 6,900, was one of a handful of Republican lawmakers who attempted to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his report on Russian interference during Mueller’s testimony before Congress last Wednesday.

His performance earned him a tweet by Donald Trump Jr. and the determination by PolitiFact that he had made a false claim when trying to discredit Mueller.

Axios reported on Sunday that Trump is expected to name Ratcliffe as the next DNI. According to that report, “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.”

The problem with that line of questioning, according to PolitiFact, is that it’s wrong. Ratcliffe seems to be taking a page out of Attorney General William Barr’s playbook, as in, it may be wrong, but who cares?

“Mueller was offering evidence that could be used if the attorney general did in fact decide to charge him,” Ric Simmons, of Ohio State University’s College of Law, told PolitiFact. “Not only is that not barred, it is precisely the kind of evidence that Mueller would be expected to bring to give proper advice to the attorney general.”

Ratcliffe also is a frequent guest on Fox News. After Mueller’s testimony, he told the network that “the impeachment balloon got popped today.”

“You can’t impeach a president on obstruction charges when the special counsel admits that they applied a legal standard to the president that has never been applied to anyone in the history of American jurisprudence before, which is something that Bob Mueller admitted today,” he said.

If you’re keeping score at home, Ratcliffe doesn’t seem to have a problem with Russia’s attacks on U.S. elections, he lied about Mueller’s investigation, he doesn’t care if the president obstructed justice, and he loves Fox News. Perfect.

You might also recall that in 2016, Ratcliffe challenged former FBI Director James Comey over the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of private email servers, and Comey’s decision not to recommend criminal charges—another feather in Ratcliffe’s MAGA cap.

The news that Ratcliffe might replace Coats followed a report last Monday by Politico noting that Trump had met with Rep. Devin Nunes, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, to discuss replacing the current DNI. Nunes and Trump share a common fondness of attacking the U.S. intelligence community over its Russia investigations and of accusing the Obama administration of wiretapping Trump campaign officials. Apparently, so does Ratcliffe.

Here’s why Trump hates Coats: A year ago, the DNI was left speechless when informed by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell during an interview that Trump had invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to the White House. You’d think that’d be something Trump might want to clear beforehand with his director of national intelligence, who is responsible for providing the president’s daily intelligence briefing. Nope.

Then, last February, Trump decided that Coats is disloyal after the DNI testified before Congress that ISIS had not been entirely defeated, as Trump had claimed, and that North Korea was “unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities.”

In response, Vice President Mike Pence reportedly begged Coats not to quit.

As with all things reliant on Donald Trump’s addled brain, Ratcliffe’s nomination isn’t yet official and could change, depending on what Fox News broadcasts.

But to help seal the deal, Ratcliffe appeared again on Trump TV on Sunday to reaffirm that he supports Barr’s efforts to investigate Democrats over the Mueller probe. The Texas Republican said he’s certain that members of the Obama administration committed crimes.

“I think the first thing we need to do is make sure we don’t do what the Democrats have done,” Ratcliffe told Fox News Sunday Morning Futures host Maria Bartiromo, according to the Washington Examiner. “…So I’m not going to accuse any specific person of any specific crime, I just want there to be a fair process to get there. What I do know as a former federal prosecutor is that it does appear that there were crimes committed during the Obama administration.”

Coats is expected to step down “in the coming days,” The New York Times reported.

Read the entire Axios report.

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