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Trump Will Nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe As Director Of National Intelligence

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

President Trump tweeted this afternoon that he is nominating Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe to be director of national intelligence again. The president had initially named the Texas congressman to be his intelligence chief last July. But within days, Ratcliffe withdrew amidst controversy. NPR's Greg Myre is here to tell us more.

Hi, Greg.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So remind us who John Ratcliffe is. And what happened last summer that scuppered his nomination then?

MYRE: Right, so he was a congressman from Texas, Republican, not so well known, so it was quite surprising. Trump said he intended to nominate Ratcliffe last July after Dan Coats was pushed out, but the criticism of Ratcliffe began almost immediately. He'd been a prosecutor and a small-town mayor in Texas, but he was in just his third term in Congress. And he really didn't have the kind of experience you would expect in a job like this, and he withdrew after just a week without actually being formally nominated at that point. In addition to his lack of experience, Ratcliffe was accused of sort of puffing up his resume. He had said that he had prosecuted a lot of terrorism cases. And that really wasn't the case, so that was an additional criticism of his lack of experience in this area.

KELLY: So it sounds like questions there about his resume, which he will have to go through again. If he gets this job, just remind us what exactly the role of the director of national intelligence is.

MYRE: It's a very important job because this person oversees the 17 different intelligence agencies. It's also a position that has very much pitted the director of national intelligence against the president. Dan Coats, who left last August, had spoken up, contradicting the president a number of times. The person who's done this job on an interim basis for the past six, seven months, Joseph Maguire, walked into the job last August and had to immediately deal with the Ukraine whistleblower situation, so it's not a job where you can simply go along with the president. There are a number of issues that have pitted the DNI against the president.

KELLY: Right. And so against that backdrop of this very rocky relationship that the president has had with the leaders of his intelligence community, how should we see this latest nomination of a politician, and a very conservative member of Congress at that?

MYRE: More of the same - and it looks like it'll continue to be problematic. He's overlooking experienced professionals, picking people who don't have that much experience, who are loyalists, very hard-line Republicans. And it does come at a crucial moment because this is a job that would oversee election security in some ways. It's sort of taken on the role of being the overseer of coordinating elections security concerns throughout the intelligence community, so it's coming at a very vital moment.

KELLY: And what will happen next? He faces Senate confirmation.

MYRE: That's correct. I think we can expect to see a very similar criticism coming from Democrats pointing to his lack of experience. And this will have to go through the Senate approval process. There has been an interim director of national intelligence, but there's sort of a seven-month window, and now there needs to be somebody who's formally nominated. Trump has done that, but it will have to go through the Senate.

KELLY: That is Greg Myre. He covers intelligence and national security for us.

Thank you, Greg.

MYRE: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.