President Trump has long advocated the conspiracy theory that America’s intelligence community are part of the Deep State, a supposed hidden government within the wider US government bureaucracy which is inclined to subvert and sabotage the president’s work. With the appointment of Trump loyalist John Ratcliffe as the Director of National Intelligence, the President is clearly committed to continuing to fight an enemy that does not actually exist.
Who is John Ratcliffe?
John Ratcliffe has finally arrived where the president has long wanted him to be: the Senate confirmed the Republican Congressman last week as the country’s new Director of National Intelligence. In the future, Ratcliffe will coordinate the work of all 16 American intelligence agencies in a position that provides him with significant influence.
Ratcliffe, who has been a member of Congress since 2014, has thus made it in his second attempt: Last July, Trump had already announced that he would nominate the 54-year-old as the successor to Dan Coats. However, Ratcliffe withdrew after various senators in his own party raised concerns about him. Former intelligence officials stated worries that Ratcliffe might politicize intelligence, while media revealed Ratcliffe’s embellishments regarding his prosecutorial experience in terrorism and immigration cases, according to a report by the Washington Post.
Ratcliffe was treated “very unfairly” by the media according to what Trump tweeted at the time. Instead of looking for a new, majority-capable candidate, Trump initially appointed the previous Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Joseph Maguire as interim director. When the latter fell into disgrace for unlawfully withholding a whistle-blower complaint, Trump delegated the task to another loyalist: ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell.
Sneaking Ratcliffe Through During a National Crisis
To date, many in Congress have not forgotten how Ratcliffe treated former Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller in the Russia affair. However, Trump’s strategy worked. In the spring, when the country had utterly different concerns, i.e. COVID-19, the president nominated Ratcliffe again.
Senate Democrats reiterated their concern that Ratcliffe’s loyalty to the president would be more important than independent categorization. After all, intelligence investigations were at the center of domestic controversy from the first day of the presidency, and Trump’s first Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, had been forced to publicly straighten out Trump’s statements more than once.
However, Ratcliffe pledged at his Senate hearing in early May that external forces such as the president would not influence the work done under his leadership. He later agreed to always deliver the “unvarnished truth” and to ensure that all intelligence information was collected, analysed and reported in an unbiased manner.
Using Intelligence to Target Opponents
However, a list published by Richard Grenell a few days ago raised further concerns that the Trump administration could attempt to utilize intelligence information to combat political opponents. The list reveals that numerous members of the Obama administration, including former FBI Director James Comey and Joe Biden, requested the disclosure of classified telephone conversations protocols in connection with the Russia affair. These protocols affirm that Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn made phone calls to the then Russian ambassador to America in December 2016.
It is a profoundly unique process that the names of actors requesting the declassification of protocols are being publicized. The fact that Grenell — in the midst of an election campaign — conducted the latter, and thus allowed the Trump administration to push the narrative further that the Obama administration did not only inflate the Russia affair but orchestrated it. This controversy, so-called Obamagate, is an appalling display of how the Trump Administration has been attempting to weaponize intelligence information for personal political gain and to distract from Trump’s abhorrent track record as Commander in Chief.
The notion that Ratcliffe could continue this legacy of disgrace is thus not far-fetched. After all, he made a name for himself by defending Trump in Congress when no one else would. It thus fits that Trump, who, after his acquittal in the impeachment trial felt encouraged to clean up the services and to dig out the alleged Deep State resistance nest, utilized the country’s biggest crisis since World War II to facilitate a successful Senate confirmation hearing for Ratcliffe. No one ought to be surprised if Ratcliffe now utilizes his position, not for the good of the country, but to appease his patron by fighting a conspiracy theory called the Deep State.