Ratcliffe testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee in May. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The Senate confirmed Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) as the director of national intelligence in a 49-44 party-line vote on Thursday.

Why it matters: Ratcliffe, a vocal ally of President Trump, now heads an intelligence community that has faced consistent criticism from the president and is in the midst of political firestorms surrounding the prosecution of Michael Flynn and the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

  • Ratcliffe will also be able to decide what documents are publicly released in expanding congressional investigations into Obama administration officials, especially Joe Biden, Trump's presumptive 2020 opponent.
  • Worth noting: Ratcliffe's predecessor, Dan Coats, was confirmed in 2017 with a 85-12 vote.

The backdrop: Trump previously floated nominating Ratcliffe for the position last year but backed off after senior congressional Republicans deemed him "unqualified" for the job due to his lack of intelligence experience.

  • He replaces acting DNI Richard Grenell, who is concurrently the U.S. ambassador to Germany and may go on to chair the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.
  • Ratcliffe said during his confirmation hearing that "keeping politics out of the intelligence community is one of my priorities," adding that he does not believe the intelligence agencies have "run amok" as Trump and his allies have claimed.
  • However, Democrats fear he will politicize a position that oversees the entire intelligence community.

What they're saying: "In a time when the threats to our nation are many and varied, it is critical to have a Senate-confirmed DNI ensuring the wide array of intelligence agencies are sharing information across lines, coordinating capabilities, and working in the furtherance of our nation’s security using 21st century, cutting edge capabilities," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

  • "Director Ratcliffe understands this responsibility, and I am confident that he will fulfill all of the roles assigned to the DNI with integrity.”

Go deeper: More highlights from John Ratcliffe's DNI confirmation hearing

Go deeper

Updated Aug 6, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Sally Yates: There was a "legitimate basis" for FBI's Flynn interview

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified Wednesday that she believes there was a "legitimate basis" for the FBI to interview then-national security adviser Michael Flynn in January 2017 as part of a counterintelligence investigation into Russian election interference.

Why it matters: The Justice Department under Attorney General Bill Barr is attempting to dismiss the case against Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, on the grounds that there was no basis for the FBI to interview him in the first place.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 19,499,341 — Total deaths: 723,881 — Total recoveries — 11,864,471Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30p.m. ET: 4,999,836 — Total deaths: 162,382 — Total recoveries: 1,643,118 — Total tests: 61,080,587Map.
  3. Politics: Trump signs 4 executive actions on coronavirus aid — Democrats slam Trump, urge GOP to return to negotiations
  4. Public health: Fauci says chances are "not great" that COVID-19 vaccine will be 98% effective — 1 in 3 Americans would decline COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Science: Indoor air is the next coronavirus frontline.
  6. Schools: How back-to-school is playing out in the South as coronavirus rages on — Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Howard to hold fall classes online.

Trump signs 4 executive actions on coronavirus aid

President Trump speaking during a press conference on Aug. 8. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump on Saturday signed four executive actions to provide relief from economic damage sustained during the coronavirus pandemic after talks between the White House and Democratic leadership collapsed Friday afternoon.

Why it matters: Because the Constitution gives Congress the power to appropriate federal spending, Trump has limited authority to act unilaterally — and risks a legal challenge if congressional Democrats believe he has overstepped.