Last week, Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, said it was "frustrating" to hear "rumors" about being fired by President Trump. They were more than rumors.
On Sunday, Trump confirmed via Twitter that Coats is leaving his position on August 15th. Officially, Coats is resigning — but no one really doubts that he has been pushed out by the president. Coats fell out of favor with Trump for publicly confirming Russian interference in the 2016 election. The Trump appointee also raised eyebrows at a conference when he revealed Trump failed to consult with him before extending an invitation to the White House to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- Juan Williams
Now Coats is on the way out for doing his job. But it is Coats' proposed replacement that takes this story beyond frustrating and straight to outrageous. Trump will nominate Representative John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) to fill the role. Ratcliffe is a pure political player and a direct threat to the nonpartisan reputation of America's intelligence agencies and their ability to protect the country by producing unbiased, first-rate information.
He auditioned for the role last week, when he subjected Robert Mueller to harsh questioning when the former special counsel appeared before Congress. Ratcliffe absurdly accused Mueller of having failed to respect "the bedrock principle of our justice system ... a presumption of innocence" when it came to Trump. At the second of two hearings that day, Ratcliffe pumped conspiracy theories and innuendo into the congressional record as he quizzed Mueller about the Steele dossier and the FISA warrant against former Trump aide Carter Page. These are two red herrings that Trump allies have consistently used to try to discredit Mueller — and to downplay the threat from Russia.
It could have been even worse. Another name reported to have been in the mix was Representative Devin Nunes (R-California). This is the mudslinger who lied by saying he had evidence to support Trump's claim that President Obama "wiretapped" Trump during the 2016 election. Nunes' claim to fame comes from his eagerness to promote Trump's "deep state" and "witch hunt" narratives about the intelligence agencies. The goal is to undermine the credibility of our intelligence agencies' findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Instead of facing that truth, Ratcliffe, Nunes, and Trump continue to feed conspiracy theories to right-wing websites and conservative talk radio.
"The Russians are absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections," FBI Director Christopher Wray testified to Congress the day before Mueller asserted that the Russian interference is ongoing. "It wasn't a single attempt," Mueller said. "They're doing it as we sit here." Wray emphasized that the U.S. has not done enough to deter Russian interference.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-California) recently said he had been unaware that three Senate races had been attacked by Russia. Earlier this year, former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was reportedly told by White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney not to mention Russian interference in front of Trump for fear it would upset him by calling into question the legitimacy of his presidency.
Wait, it gets worse. Hours after Mueller's impassioned plea, Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, blocked three bills passed by the House of Representatives to safeguard U.S. elections from foreign interference. Should we be calling into question the patriotism of every Republican who last week voted against the election security bills?
McConnell dismissed the bills as "partisan" and their authors as promoters of a "conspiracy theory." "This is an issue of patriotism, of national security, of protecting the very integrity of American democracy, something so many of our forbears died for. And what do we hear from the Republican side? Nothing," said Senator Charles Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate.
"To this day, Mr. Trump refuses to acknowledge the seriousness of Russian intervention, and the Republican-controlled Senate is unwilling to consider legislation for enhanced election security — maybe because doing either could be seen as an admission that the election was tainted," wrote The New York Times editorial board. "The president appears more concerned with nursing his ego than safeguarding American democracy — and that puts us all, Republicans, Democrats, and independents, at risk."
Let history record that a delusional president, concerned only with his own ego, and a traitorous Republican Congress, concerned only with their own re-elections, chose to ignore hard evidence regarding the Russian threat to our elections. Instead, we get the likes of John Ratcliffe as the president's nominee to head national intelligence.
God save us.
Juan Williams is an author and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.