Daniel Coats will resign next month as Director of National Intelligence, and John Ratcliffe, a Republican congressman from Texas, has been nominated to take his place.
That’s bad, according to the media, because Coats could “speak truth to power,” and Ratcliffe became “Trump’s top pick because of his efforts to please the president.”
CNN brought on Leon Panetta, the former Democratic congressman, to say that the “responsibility of the Dan Coats and for that matter the intelligence community, is to speak truth to power. That’s why they’re there. They’ve got to be objective. They’ve got to be non-partisan. They’ve got to basically tell it as it is, whether that person likes to hear it or not.”
“Dan Coats Spoke Truth to Trump. Now He’s Out,” read the headline on Kathy Gilsinan’s story in the Atlantic. “The director of national intelligence won plaudits for plainly laying out the intelligence community’s assessments on issues ranging from Iran to Russia, putting him at odds with the president.”
The page on which the story appears promotes another story by Gilsinan, headlined, “The Impossible Job of Speaking Truth To Trump,” with a subhead that read: “How do you offer intelligence to a president who’s not interested – and keep your job?”
“Dan Coats to Step Down as Intelligence Chief; Trump Picks Loyalist for Job,” read the headline on a story by Maggie Haberman, Julian Barnes and Peter Baker in the New York Times.
After Coats’ “fraught tenure marked by tension with the Oval Office,” Trump “tapped one of his staunch defenders, Rep. John Ratcliffe, to take over the country’s expansive network of spy agencies,” they wrote in their lead.
It later pointed to “pointed praise for Mr. Coats” from Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who was quoted as saying: “The mission of the intelligence community is to speak truth to power. As DNI, Dan Coats stayed true to that mission.”
The Washington Post focused its story on how Ratcliffe came to be the nominee. “Rep. John Ratcliffe, President Trump’s pick to serve as the next director of national intelligence, has made his name in Congress as one of the GOP’s most dogged critics of perceived anti-Trump bias at the FBI and in the special counsel’s investigation of his alleged Russia ties, wrote Karoun Demirjian of the Post in: “New spy chief pick Ratcliffe made his name during the Trump inquiries by backing the president.”
The Post story then recounted the dramatic moment in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s appearance before the House Judiciary Committee last Wednesday, when Ratcliffe accused Mueller of “violating ‘every principle in the most sacred of traditions’ of prosecutors by writing ‘180 pages about decisions that weren’t reached, about potential crimes that weren’t charged of decided’” and declared that “Donald Trump is not above the law. He’s not. But he damn sure shouldn’t be below the law, which is where Volum2 of this report puts him.”
It was enjoyed in the White House, the Post wrote. “That turn in the spotlight appears to have solidified a positive impression on the president, who on Sunday tweeted that Ratcliffe ‘will lead and inspire greatness for the Country he loves’ as the next director for national intelligence.”
The New York Times turned to James Clapper to make the point about intelligence chiefs needing to be forthright with the presidents they serve.
“It’ll be a big loss for the intelligence community, and, for that matter, the nation,’” Clapper, who served as intelligence director under President Obama. “Dan has been pretty courageous about speaking truth to power over his entire tenure.”
The Times wrote that Ratcliffe “hammered Mueller for saying he could not exonerate Mr. Trump on obstruction of justice, declaring that such a determination was beyond his mission.”
Then, it added, oddly, that “Critics disagreed, nothing that Justice Department guidelines call for a special counsel to provide a report ‘explaining the prosecution or declination decisions’ at the end of the investigation.”
This was Ratcliffe’s point – that Mueller either had to say Trump should be charged or exonerate him.