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Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), President's Trump nominee for director of national intelligence (DNI), said at his confirmation hearing Tuesday that every government whistleblower should receive "every protection under the law."

Why it matters: As one of Trump's fiercest defenders during the impeachment inquiry, Ratcliffe repeatedly sought to undermine the credibility of the Ukraine whistleblower, claiming without evidence that the complaint was "wrong in numerous respects."

  • Ratcliffe said at Tuesday's hearing that he did not want to "re-litigate" impeachment, but claimed that his issue was that the president didn't receive "due process" during the House inquiry.

The big picture: Democrats fear that Ratcliffe, who is being tapped to replace acting DNI Richard Grenell, will politicize a position that oversees the entire U.S intelligence community.

  • Trump announced last year that he planned to name Ratcliffe to the position, but that potential nomination was scuppered amid fears that Senate Republicans were not on board.
  • Ratcliffe pledged in his opening statement: "Regardless of what anyone wants our intelligence to reflect, the intelligence I will provide if confirmed will not be altered or impacted by outside influence."
  • He insisted that Trump has not spoken to him about "loyalty," adding that his loyalty is "to the Constitution."

Asked about the term "Deep State," which the president and his allies have used to suggest a conspiracy by career officials to undermine the administration, Ratcliffe responded: "I don't know what that means."

  • Ratcliffe agreed that it would be "inappropriate" and "in some contexts illegal" to retaliate against career officials for political reasons. Trump has carried out a purge of career officials who played a role in the impeachment inquiry, including Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson.
  • "Keeping politics out of the intelligence community is one of my priorities," Ratcliffe testified. ""I will be entirely apolitical as the director of national intelligence."
  • Ratcliffe later said that he does not believe the U.S. intelligence agencies have "run amok," as Trump and his allies have claimed.

What's next: Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said that he would like to bring Ratcliffe's nomination to a committee vote next week and a full Senate floor vote shortly thereafter.

Go deeper

When U.S. politicians exploit foreign disinformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. political actors will keep weaponizing the impact of widespread foreign disinformation campaigns on American elections, making these operations that much more effective and attractive to Russia, China, Iran or other countries backing them.

Why it matters: Hostile powers’ disinformation campaigns aim to destabilize the U.S., and each time a domestic politician embraces them, it demonstrates that they work.

2 hours ago - World

Hong Kong pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai detained on fraud charge

An activist holds a placard highlighting China's Tiananmen Square massacre as pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrives at West Kowloon Magistrates' Court in Hong Kong in November. Photo: Isaac Wong/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai is being detained until an April court hearing after the pro-democracy supporter was charged Thursday with fraud, per his Apple Daily news outlet.

Why it matters: The 72-year-old's arrest and denial of bail is another blow for the pro-democracy movement in the former British colony amid concerns about a fresh crackdown on activists.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Inhofe loudly sets Trump straight on defense bill

Sen. Jim Inhofe speaks with reporters in the Capitol last month. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Senator Jim Inhofe told President Trump today he'll likely fail to get two big wishes in pending defense spending legislation, bellowing into his cellphone: "This is the only chance to get our bill passed," a source who overheard part of their conversation tells Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans are ready to test whether Trump's threats of vetoing the bill, which has passed every year for more than half a century, are empty.