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.

Elliott Abrams to replace Brian Hook as Trump's Iran envoy

Brian Hook. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Image

President Trump's Iran envoy, Brian Hook, is stepping down, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed Thursday. He will be replaced with Venezuela envoy Elliott Abrams, a noted Iran hawk who will serve in both roles.

Why it matters: Hook had been tasked with executing Trump's "maximum pressure" policy toward Iran, working closely with Pompeo. That strategy has deepened tensions and thus far failed to force Iran back to the negotiating table, as Trump had hoped.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tests positive for coronavirus ahead of Trump visit

Photo: Justin Merriman/Getty Images

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) has tested positive for COVID-19 and plans to quarantine at his home for the next 14 days, his office announced Thursday. He currently has no symptoms.

Why it matters: The 73-year-old DeWine was set to meet President Trump Thursday on the tarmac at an airport in Cleveland and was tested as part of standard protocol. He is the second governor known to have contracted the coronavirus, after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R).