On Thursday, Microsoft released a report detailing attempts by Russia, China, and Iran to meddle in the 2020 election. The same day, it was revealed that a whistleblower in the Department of Homeland Security filed a complaint alleging that the Trump administration downplayed the threat of Russian election interference. All this comes just two weeks after Trump’s Director of National Intelligence, former Texas congressman John Ratcliffe, decided to suspend in-person briefings to Congress on foreign election interference.
Ratcliffe, who previously represented Texas’ 4th congressional district in northeast Texas, was chosen for his loyalty to Trump rather than any relevant qualifications. In fact, Ratcliffe lied about his resume to make it appear that his national security credentials looked stronger than they were. The revelations of his embellished record forced him to withdraw his nomination in 2019, only for Trump to renominate him in 2020. Ratcliffe was confirmed by the Senate 49-44, the first time more than 12 Senators voted against a DNI nominee.
The consequences of having an unqualified sycophant in one of the United State’s most critical national security positions are now manifesting. Elections are a sacred part of American democracy and any attempt by foreign powers to interfere with them needs to be taken seriously. Yet Ratcliffe is actively stonewalling Congress on this critical issue, likely because his boss benefited from foreign election interference in 2016.
Ratcliffe’s suspension of in-person briefings has attracted criticism not just from Democrats but also from Dan Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana who was Trump’s first DNI. “These briefings in person should be delivered to both the Senate and the House oversight committees and also should be delivered to the duly elected members of the House and Senate at the appropriate classification level when directed by the bipartisan leadership of both the House and the Senate,” he said in an interview “We must stand united in defending the election security process from being corrupted and ensure that a vote cast is a vote counted.”
Predictably, GOP senators have defended Ratcliffe’s decision, citing concerns over classified information. “[It] is a chronic problem around here. People go into the SCIF and they get a classified briefing and next thing they come out and start telling everything they heard to the press,” said Sen. John Cornyn. Interestingly, Cornyn didn’t say anything when Republicans stormed the SCIF during the impeachment hearings.
On the 19th anniversary of 9/11, it’s important to remember that the DNI was created specifically to prevent such attacks from happening again. It is a critical job that should go to national security professionals, not partisan hacks.
Photo: Jacquelyn Martin-Pool/Getty Images