US Congressman John Ratcliffe from Texas has been sworn in as the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the country’s spy chief.
Senators voted 49-44 on Ratcliffe’s nomination last week , largely along party lines. Republicans hold 53 seats in the Senate. Democrats refused to support the nomination over concerns that he will politicise the intelligence community’s work under President Donald Trump, Xinhua reported.
The local media said Ratcliffe’s confirmation was the most political vote that has occurred for the DNI position, which has traditionally been viewed as an apolitical position.
The 54-year-old Ratcliffe, sworn in on Tuesday, was nominated again by Trump in February to be the nation’s spy chief, several months after the Republican’s first nomination was withdrawn amid bipartisan concerns about his qualification.
Trump picked Ratcliffe as new chief of national intelligence on July 28, four days after Robert Mueller testified before the House Judiciary Committee, when the Republican fiercely questioned the former special counsel over his two-year investigation into the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, and Trump’s possible obstruction of justice.
First elected to the US Congress, Ratcliffe sits on the House judiciary and intelligence committees. As a frequent Trump defender, he has been viewed as one of the most conservative members of Congress based on his voting record. He was also a member of Trump’s impeachment defence team.
The DNI position has been filled in an acting capacity since Dan Coats stepped down in August 2019 after a tenure in which he conflicted with the White House on a number of national security issues.
The DNI is a cabinet-level official in the US government that serves as the head of the 17-member United States Intelligence Community, a group of separate intelligence agencies and subordinate organizations engaging in intelligence activities that support US foreign policy and national security. The role was created in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.