May 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Senate confirms John Ratcliffe as intelligence chief

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

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand has only eight active novel coronavirus cases no COVID-19 patients in hospital after reporting another day of zero cases. However, the death toll rose to 22.

Zoom in: A top health official told a briefing a 96-year-old woman "was regarded to having recovered from COVID-19 at the time of her death, and COVID-19 is not recorded as the primary cause of her death on her death certificate." But health officials decided to include her death in the overall tally of deaths related to the virus.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 5,690,951 — Total deaths: 355,575 — Total recoveries — 2,350,071Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,699,073 — Total deaths: 100,396 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. Public health: CDC issues guidelines for reopening officesFauci says data is "really quite evident" against hydroxychloroquine.
  4. States: California hospitals strained by patients in MexicoTexas Supreme Court blocks mail-in expansion to state voters.
  5. Business: MGM plans to reopen major Las Vegas resorts in June — African American business owners have seen less relief from PPP, Goldman Sachs says.
  6. Tech: AI will help in the pandemic — but it might not be in time for this one.
  7. World: EU proposes a massive pandemic rescue package.
  8. 1 🎶 thing: Local music venues get rocked by coronavirus.
  9. 🎧 Podcast: Trump vs. Twitter ... vs. Trump.
  10. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  11. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 21 mins ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

More than 100,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins — a milestone that puts the death toll far beyond some of the most tragic events in U.S. history.

By the numbers: Over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Nearly 354,000 Americans have recovered and over 15.1 million tests have been conducted. California became the fourth state with at least 100,000 reported cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, along with Illinois, New Jersey and New York.