Trump’s Intelligence Director Nominee Is a Defense Industry Favorite

Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), congressman from one of the most conservative districts in the country, will be the next director of national intelligence pending Senate confirmation, President Donald Trump announced in a tweet Sunday.

The Texas representative is seen as more ideologically aligned with Trump than his predecessor, Dan Coats, who came into conflict with the president over issues including North Korea and Russian election-meddling.

Ratcliffe, who made waves last week for his aggressive questioning of former special counsel Robert Mueller, served as a U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas in the mid-2000s and as the mayor of Heath, Texas, a town of 8,700.

He was first elected to the House in 2014, when he won an uncontested general election after knocking off 90-year-old incumbent Ralph Hall in a crowded primary. He won reelection in 2016 with 88 percent of the vote over a Libertarian opponent and again in 2018 with 75 percent of the vote over a Democrat.

Texas’s 4th Congressional District is among the most conservative in the nation. The Cook Partisan Voting Index rates it as R+28.

During his congressional tenure, Ratcliffe’s top contributors included L3 Technologies, the defense communications contractor that recently merged with Harris Corporation. The Texas congressman has received $28,000 from the L3 Technologies PAC over his short congressional career, including $10,000 earlier this year.

Since he first ran for office, Ratcliffe raised $110,500 from the defense sector and $214,976 from the communications and electronics sector. During the 2018 midterms, he received $10,000 in contributions from PACs affiliated with AT&T and Northrop Grumman, among others.

Ratcliffe is also a favorite of conservative groups, raising $383,664 from ideological and single-issue groups during his career, including $111,105 from employees of the Club for Growth, a Republican-aligned 501(c)(4) nonprofit.

The Texas congressman was previously floated as a possible candidate for attorney general after Jeff Sessions resigned last fall.

Between serving as a U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas and being elected to Congress, Ratcliffe practiced with former Bush Attorney General John Ashcroft’s law firm. In 2017 the firm lobbied on behalf of the Qatari government after it was boycotted by Saudi Arabia, though Ratcliffe was serving in Congress and was not a partner at the time.

Coats leaves after a decades long career in Washington’s revolving door. Coats had been appointed director of national intelligence shortly after retiring from his Indiana U.S. Senate in 2016. The seat was handedly picked up by Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) that year. Prior to that Coats alternated between public and private service including as a lobbyist at King & Spalding, ambassador to Germany and lobbyist at Verner, Liipfert.

Coats announced his retirement from the Senate in 2016, frustrated over partisan gridlock in the chamber, deciding to let someone younger take the seat as he would’ve been 80 years old at the end of his term.

“I have concluded that the time has come to pass this demanding job to the next generation of leaders,” Coats said in a statement announcing his Senate retirement.

It’s unclear if the 76-year-old will return to the private sector or retire entirely after he departs the White House officially on August 15.

Amid clashes with Trump last summer, Coats defended his role and warned of the potential consequences of ignoring attempted Russian interference in U.S. elections.

“The role of the Intelligence Community is to provide the best information and fact-based assessments possible for the President and policymakers. We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security,” he said in a statement.

The White House hasn’t yet named the acting director of national intelligence between Coats’ departure and Ratcliffe’s confirmation in the Senate, a period likely to last several weeks or months due to the Senate’s August recess and the existing backlog of cabinet nominations pending on Capitol Hill.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is now one of five cabinet-level agencies operating without a permanent leader.

If Ratcliffe is confirmed by the Senate, there will be a special election to succeed him in the conservative 4th District. Democrats have declined to run a candidate in three of the past four elections.