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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.

Texas abortion law remains in effect after appeals court ruling

Pro- and anti-abortion protesters outside the Supreme Court as arguments begin about the Texas abortion law on Capitol Hill in November. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A U.S. appeals court transferred a challenge to Texas' law banning most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy to the state supreme court in a 2-1 vote on Monday evening.

Why it matters: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision means the country's most restrictive abortion law can remain in place for the time being.

2 hours ago - World

At least 2 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least two people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Monday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told Axios over the phone that two people had been confirmed to have died in the disaster.