Donald Trump’s ‘poodle’ spymaster exposed: Could new CIA chief radicalise defence policy?

Trump’s firing of the experienced Dan Coats and subsequent nomination of Mr Ratcliffe was the latest in a long line of unorthodox moves from the US President. The Texas Republican entered the public eye last week when he grilled special counsel Robert Mueller during the testimony last week. It has led to concerns from all corners of Capitol Hill that Mr Ratcliffe was rewarded for his loyalty rather than being hired on merit.

The Director of National Intelligence is a crucial role – he will brief the President on any foreign and domestic dangers facing the US.

Mr Ratcliffe is a former federal prosecutor in addition to being a member of Congress.

However, his experience is dwarfed by others who have served previously as the Director.

They have included former ambassadors or veterans – meanwhile, Mr Ratcliffe can only boast seven months on the House Intelligence Committee.

Ex-officials fear that he could, in return for his nomination, continue to show undue loyalty in a supposedly independent role.

Former CIA chief spokesman George Little said: “I’m deeply concerned that a Trump poodle like Ratcliffe as the Director of National Intelligence will mean politicised and mean-spirited investigations of the very intelligence community he’s supposed to lead.

“The women and men of the intelligence committee deserve better.”

Meanwhile, former CIA intelligence officer Rolf Mowatt-Larssen claimed: “Trump is consolidating his personal control over the intelligence community.

“I fear that there is a slow takeover of the norms and procedures of governance by this president, amassing unprecedented executive power.

“To do that he needs to neutralise or at least silence the intelligence community.

“He has been doing that for three years, but this takes it to the new level.”

The accusations flew at Mr Ratcliffe following his performance at Mr Mueller’s hearing last week.

He questioned the special counsel’s report which alleged attempted Russian interference but did not conclude that collusion occurred.

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Trump has still come under fire for supposed obstruction of justice – something Mr Ratcliffe was quick to deny.

He added: “Nowhere does it say that you were to conclusively determine Donald Trump’s innocence or that the special counsel report should determine whether or not to exonerate him.

“The bedrock principle of our justice system is a presumption of innocence. It exists for everyone — everyone is entitled to it, including sitting presidents.”

This garnered him additional favour with Trump, who emphatically welcomed his nomination on Sunday.

He said: “I am pleased to announce that highly respected Congressman John Ratcliffe of Texas will be nominated by me to be the Director of National Intelligence.

“A former US Attorney, John will lead and inspire greatness for the Country he loves.”

Mr Ratcliffe will still need to be confirmed by the Senate, which currently has 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats (including two independents).

This will not necessarily be a formality, according to former CIA intelligence officer David Preiss.

He said: “Do not take confirmation for granted.

“The only thing that points to his appointment at this time is the fact that he was strident and energetic in his criticism of Robert Mueller during last week’s hearing.”

Trump’s move comes prior to an impending election campaign, where he will attempt to serve four more years in the White House.

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