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Trump scuttles plan to nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe as top intelligence official

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John Ratcliffe questions former special counsel Robert Mueller on Capitol Hill on July 24, 2019.   -   Copyright  J. Scott Applewhite AP
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Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, President Donald Trump's pick to be the new director of national intelligence, will remain in Congress and not be nominated for the post, the commander-in-chief announced Friday.

"Rather than going through months of slander and libel, I explained to John how miserable it would be for him and his family to deal with these people," Trump tweeted Friday afternoon.

"John has therefore decided to stay in Congress where he has done such an outstanding job representing the people of Texas, and our Country," he added.

The choice of Ratcliffe, 53, had come under significant scrutiny in recent days, with many former intelligence officials expressing concern that Trump's pick might politicize the job.

Hours before Trump announced him as the pick to be the new director of national intelligence on Sunday, Ratcliffe was on Fox News saying the Russia investigation may have been tainted by a criminal conspiracy, without offering any evidence.

Ratcliffe has little experience in national security or intelligence. In late July, The New York Times reported that the congressman had overstated parts of his résumé. Although his website says he "put terrorists in prison," there is no evidence he ever prosecuted a terrorism case.

Trump said Friday that he would announce his new pick for the job "shortly."

Over the objections of senators and senior U.S. officials, the White House is planning to prevent the principal deputy DNI, Sue Gordon, from becoming acting director of national intelligence, according to one current and one former U.S. official familiar with the matter.

Gordon, a career intelligence official, has the backing of Sen. Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Burr said in a statement. And Rod Rosenstein, the former deputy attorney general, tweeted in support of her today.

"Deputy DNI Sue Gordon is a proven patriot who understands foreign threats, respects the nonpartisan truth, and protects America 24/7," Rosenstein tweeted. "Daughter of a Navy Vice Admiral, mother of 2 Marine captains. Gordon is a great @realDonaldTrump appointee!"

But Trump is not a fan of Gordon, several intelligence officials told NBC News. And when DNI Dan Coats departs, he plans to appoint his own choice in the acting role.

Federal law says that when the position of director of national intelligence becomes vacant, the deputy director "shall serve" as acting director. But experts say there are conflicting statutes, and that the president may have the latitude to appoint a different person who already has been confirmed by the Senate.

This is a breaking news story, please check back for updates.

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