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With Ratcliffe withdrawal, yet another Trump nominee drops out

Another presidential nominee for a high-ranking administration role has dropped out. Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, withdrew from consideration for director of national intelligence after opponents criticized his level of experience and the way he represented his legacy as a federal prosecutor. Judy Woodruff speaks with The Washington Post’s Greg Miller about the White House vetting process.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The revolving door keeps spinning. Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe of Texas is out, no longer in consideration to be the director of national intelligence, that just five days after President Trump nominated him to the position.

    Opponents said Ratcliffe had too little experience for the top U.S. intelligence post and he had been accused of misrepresenting his experience as a federal prosecutor.

    Before leaving the White House for his New Jersey golf club, Mr. Trump blamed the news media for Ratcliffe's withdrawing, but also praised reporters for their vetting of his nominee.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I could see that the press was treating him, I thought very unfairly.

    You vet for me, I like when you vet. No, no, you vet. I think the White House has a great vetting process. You vet for me. When I give a name, I give it out to the press, and you vet for me.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We take a deeper look at this latest about-face with Greg Miller. He's national security correspondent at The Washington Post.

    Hello again, Greg.

    So, what happened here?

  • Greg Miller:

    What happened here is something actually we have seen happen time and time again with this White House and even back into the Trump campaign.

    I mean, Trump has a long record now of selecting people or putting them forward for jobs that they either aren't qualified for or have blemishes on their background that will inevitably surface and make — and disqualify them for, or both. And that's what has happened here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, as we heard the president say today, and he tweeted earlier, he talked about slander and libel that John Ratcliffe was facing.

    What was that a reference to?

  • Greg Miller:

    Well, that's a reference to a lieutenant of critical stories that have surfaced over the past several days showing that Ratcliffe had embellished or exaggerated key parts of his resume, important parts of his resume, including claiming to have prosecuted terrorists as a federal prosecutor in Texas, where there had been no prosecutions of any sort along those lines during his tenure there.

    And as we reported this week, he was also regarded as kind of a lightweight on the House Intelligence Committee, not very active, skipping foreign trips that are important to oversight, and not highly regarded.

    And that was one of the most important credentials, one of the few, frankly, credentials he had to become director of national intelligence.

    And so it all just sort of snowballed. And they ended his nomination today.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I saw that a number of Republican senators who, of course, would have been voting on his confirmation, a few of them said good things about him, but there were a number who were withholding judgment.

  • Greg Miller:

    Right, and that again speaks to a lack of preparation or care taken by this White House, right?

    I mean, we're accustomed to seeing White Houses and presidents of both parties do a series of steps before they put forward somebody for such a consequential job, including checking to see what kind of support that person would have in Congress for confirmation hearings.

    And that's another thing that this White House appears not to have done in this case, because the support for Ratcliffe was lukewarm, at best, and deteriorating amid all of the reporting on his record.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So the director of national intelligence oversees, what is it, 17 different agencies, both military and civilian.

    Who is under consideration? What do we know about that? The president said three names? What do we know?

  • Greg Miller:

    Yes, well those three names are anybody's guess, and it's unclear whether he has three names. He likes to assert things that aren't always true.

    And we don't know at this point what their backup plans are. And there's a lot of question right now about Trump's comfort level with the person who would be the acting director until a new person can be named.

    Her — the job is now for the time being held by Dan Coats, although he's leaving in a couple of weeks. Sue Gordon is the deputy, in line to be in the acting capacity for some time thereafter, but the White House doesn't like her, or Trump has indicated — indicated through his staff that he would like to find somebody else even in an acting capacity.

    It's a huge, important job. It's important for the public to understand. It oversees CIA, the NSA, the FBI, the entire intelligence community. And it's — and we're here at a moment where this White House doesn't seem to have much of a clue about who should lead it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Greg Miller with The Washington Post, thank you very much.

  • Greg Miller:

    Thanks.

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