Senate confirms Trump nominee John Ratcliffe to be top US spy

The Senate backed Trump nominee Ratcliffe (above) by 49 to 44, amid stiff opposition from Democrats. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The US Senate backed lawmaker John Ratcliffe on Thursday (May 21) as the next director of national intelligence, a victory for President Donald Trump in his second bid to install the conservative Republican as head of the intelligence community.

Ratcliffe, a House of Representatives member known for fierce loyalty to Trump, was confirmed by 49 to 44, many more"no" votes than for any previous nominee to be the country's top spy.

The vote was strictly along party lines, with every no from Democrats and every yes from Trump's fellow Republicans.

The vote makes Ratcliffe the first Senate-confirmed nominee for the national security post since August.

It most recently has been held by Richard Grenell, Trump's ambassador to Germany, who has faced questions from Congress about bids to declassify classified records and reorganise his office.

Ratcliffe assumes the position as the country faces a wide range of security threats, including the coronavirus pandemic, stiff competition with China and the widespread expectation that Russia is attempting to interfere in the 2020 US election.

Trump first announced in July that he wanted Ratcliffe for the post created in 2004 to run the country's 17 intelligence agencies in a more unified way after the Sept 11, 2001, attacks.

However, Ratcliffe's name was withdrawn after just five days, after both Democrats and Republicans questioned his qualifications and amid reports he had padded his resume by overstating his role in prosecuting terrorists while serving as a US attorney in Texas.

Ratcliffe was the most junior member of the House Intelligence Committee, with just six months on the panel, when Trump first tipped him for the post.

Democrats said Ratcliffe was too partisan to ensure intelligence agencies would not be influenced by political concerns. Republicans said they had confidence in him.

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