Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas., asks questions to former special counsel Robert Mueller, as he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019.
Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

Trump’s choice for National Intelligence director ends in fiasco

On Sunday afternoon, Donald Trump announced via Twitter that Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) was his choice to serve as the new director of National Intelligence. The president described him at the time as a “highly respected congressman,” who’ll “inspire greatness.” As recently as yesterday, Trump told reporters, “I’m sure that he’ll be able to do very well.”

Not quite 24 hours later, the whole fiasco came to an abrupt and ignominious end.

Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, President Donald Trump’s pick to be the new director of national intelligence, will remain in Congress and not be nominated for the post, the commander-in-chief announced Friday.

“Rather than going through months of slander and libel, I explained to John how miserable it would be for him and his family to deal with these people,” Trump tweeted Friday afternoon.

The president’s announcement, which also came via Twitter, predictably blamed journalists for the developments, arguing that the far-right congressman has been “treated very unfairly by the LameStream Media.”

Trump didn’t specify how, exactly, Ratcliffe had been treated “very unfairly,” which is a shame because I’d love to hear more about this. Was it unfair for news organizations to note that Ratcliffe was caught repeatedly lying about his professional background? Was it unfair for media outlets to note that Ratcliffe didn’t even meet the statutory guidelines for the position?

Was it unfair to note that Senate Republicans didn’t want Trump to nominate this guy? Was it unfair to alert the public to the fact that Ratcliffe is one of Congress’ most far-right members who’s dabbled in silly conspiracy theories? Was it unfair to note that the Texan, during his brief congressional career, has been a disengaged lawmaker who’s made no meaningful connections with the intelligence agencies the president wanted him to oversee?

What actually seems unfair about all of this was Trump’s insistence that a rabid partisan lacking in qualifications or credibility had any business serving as the nation’s chief intelligence official.

I can appreciate why the president tried to frame this in a face-saving way – Trump is sparing Ratcliffe from the “miserable” process he thought wouldn’t be a problem yesterday – but the most likely explanation for this debacle coming to an end is that no one, including GOP senators, seriously thought this would be a good idea.

And while it’s fair to blame Ratcliffe for his public deceptions and partisan antics, there’s no doubt as to who’s responsible for this fiasco. Just like with Ronny Jackson, Stephen Moore, Herman Cain, Andy Puzder, and Mark Green, among others, the president keeps choosing the wrong people for important jobs without any meaningful forethought or scrutiny.

Trump may try to avoid the blame for his messes, but his culpability is obvious;.