The Senate Intelligence Committee is poised to vote on the nomination of Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, to be the director of national intelligence.
Ratcliffe is a member of the House Intelligence, Judiciary, and Ethics Committees. He was a staunch defender of Trump during the Russia investigation and was on the president's advisory team during the impeachment proceedings earlier this year. Trump first considered him for the DNI position last year, but he withdrew his name last August fearing a rancorous, partisan confirmation process.
“I made the decision to withdraw from consideration because, you know, if your political future comes down to the vote of 100 U.S. senators, and you start out day one down 47 to nothing because every Democrat is against you, my concern was there’s not a lot of margin for error there,” Ratcliffe told Fox News at the time. “I just decided I was better served in the position that I am, where I can ask difficult questions of people like the special counsel and [former FBI Director] Jim Comey under oath and shape the investigation that way.”
Trump nominated Ratcliffe anyway in February. Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, is the current acting DNI, the second to have that role after former DNI Dan Coats' resignation last summer. Joseph Maguire was acting DNI until February.
Democrats' opposition to Grenell could improve Ratcliffe's chances of being confirmed now. Earlier this month, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., sent Grenell a letter demanding answers regarding organizational changes in his office, including President Trump's recent termination of Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson.
The DNI position was created after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to oversee the U.S. intelligence community. The DNI serves on the president's cabinet and acts as an adviser to the president, National Security Council, and Homeland Security Council for national security-related intelligence issues.
A former federal prosecutor, Ratcliffe often went on the attack during the Russia probe and its aftermath, grilling Special Counsel Robert Mueller himself over his decision to write in his report that he could not exonerate the president of obstruction of justice.
“The special counsel’s job didn’t say you were to determine Trump’s innocence or to exonerate him,” Ratcliffe said at a July hearing, adding that "the bedrock principle of our justice system is a presumption of innocence—everyone is entitled to it, including a sitting president, and because of a presumption of innocence, a prosecutor never, ever needs to determine it."
Prior to joining Congress, Ratcliffe served as Chief of Anti-Terrorism and National Security for the Eastern District of Texas and Mayor of Heath, Texas.
Fox News' Chad Pergram, Andrew O'Reilly, and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.