The Senate on Thursday narrowly confirmed the nomination of Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) as director of national intelligence.
The final vote was 49-44.
All votes for Ratcliffe came from Republicans. All against came from Democrats except for one from Sen. Angus King (I-Vt.), who regularly caucuses with Democrats.
The vote came after strong protests from some senators, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
Wyden on the Senate floor accused Ratcliffe of “danc[ing] around direct questions” when questioned by lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee and making “disturbing statements that make it clear that he has and will misrepresent and politicize intelligence without a moment’s hesitation.”
Schumer said he spoke with Ratcliffe over the phone and asked him to confirm the finding by intelligence agencies that Russia tried interfering in the 2016 election but Ratcliffe declined. Schumer incorrectly said that all 17 agencies said Russia engaged in a campaign to influence voters when only four agencies actually did.
Ratcliffe, 54, “is not the kind of DNI we need,” Schumer said. “I will vehemently oppose his nomination today,” he added, calling for colleagues to vote with him.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) signaled he had enough votes, telling senators that Ratcliffe would lead the intelligence community against threats, rogue nations, and terrorists and ensure the work “is untainted by political bias.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who became acting Senate Intelligence chairman this week, voiced his support for Ratcliffe in a statement, saying the Texan understood the director of national intelligence’s “crucial role.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) urged Ratcliffe to remember that “transparency brings accountability” and that “the public’s business ought to be public by its very nature.”
“The intelligence community is a secretive bunch. They often operate in the shadows and have to in order to do the job that we asked them to do to protect our national security. However, that doesn’t mean when Congress asks them questions, the intelligence community has a license to withhold information. When Congress comes knocking, the intelligence community must answer,” he said.
Ratcliffe replaces Richard Grenell, a U.S. ambassador who was serving in the role temporarily.
Grassley said Grenell has been “a breath of fresh air,” adding that Ratcliffe has “some big shoes to fill, that’s for sure.”
Grenell congratulated Ratcliffe in a statement. “You will be the best DNI ever!” he said.
Grenell made a number of moves, including declassifying a list of Obama administration officials who requested the unmasking, or denanonymizing, of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn when the retired military officer was Donald Trump’s incoming national security advisor in late 2016 and early 2017.
Ratcliffe is seen by some as an ally of President Donald Trump. He served as an advisor to Trump during the impeachment proceedings.
The Texan told senators in a recent hearing he wouldn’t distort findings if he became director of national intelligence.
“Regardless of what anyone wants our intelligence to reflect, the intelligence I will provide, if confirmed, will not be impacted or altered as a result of outside influence,” he told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
He also said he’d convey findings to the president even if he knew Trump disagreed with them and if doing so could cost him his job.
The committee advanced the nomination on May 19 in a narrow 8-7 party-line vote.
Republicans control the Senate, giving them majorities on every committee.
Ratcliffe was first nominated to the post last year but he withdrew from consideration after fierce opposition from Democrats and skepticism from some Republicans. Ratcliffe has since swayed some who’d previously opposed his nomination, including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
The position of national intelligence director was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The director oversees 17 intelligence agencies, including the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis.