President Donald Trump on Friday dropped his choice of John Ratcliffe to be US spy chief after questions arose about the congressman’s lack of experience and possible exaggerations in his resume, marking the latest upheaval over a top national security post.
Trump announced the move five days after he surprised many in Washington by making the conservative Republican lawmaker from Texas his selection to replace Daniel Coats as director of national intelligence, a post that oversees the 17 U.S. civilian and military intelligence agencies including the CIA.
According to a source familiar with the situation, Trump is considering Republican Representatives Michael McCaul and Devin Nunes for the job. McCaul is a former chairman of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee and Nunes is a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Trump told reporters at the White House he has “a list of three people” he will consider for the job this weekend. The Republican president blamed unflattering news coverage for Ratcliffe’s decision to bow out and instead remain in the House. Ratcliffe, 53, faced a potentially difficult Senate confirmation process.
The vacancy comes as the US intelligence community grapples with an array of challenges, including the threat of foreign interference in next year’s US elections, the impact of a rising China, escalating tensions with Iran, North Korea’s nuclear program and the desire to end years of conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
Trump announced last Sunday that Coats, who had clashed with him over assessments involving Russia, Iran and North Korea, will step down on Aug 15.
Ratcliffe, a Trump loyalist and the most junior member of the House Intelligence Committee, had been tapped, but not formally nominated, to replace Coats.