Joe Manchin calls Trump’s choice for spy chief too political

Posted at 12:45 PM, Jul 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-30 14:45:59-04

Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, told CNN Tuesday he’s not supportive of Rep. John Ratcliffe becoming the Director of National Intelligence because he thinks the Texas Republican is too political.

Manchin specifically cited the “toxic presentation” Ratcliffe made when questioning former special counsel Robert Mueller at a hearing last week.

“Anyone in the intelligence (community) should not be political at all. You have to get to the most non-political, non-partisan person you can find,” Manchin said, pointing to outgoing Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who is a former senator, as an example of the type of person who is needed. “Why bring in someone who is so toxic.”

Manchin’s opposition is significant because he votes with President Donald Trump more often than many other Democrats and comes from a state Trump won easily. If Manchin opposes Ratcliffe, it’s a sign no other Democrats are likely to support him either.

“I have not met him,” Manchin said. “But everything I have seen — and people that do know him and have delved into it — think he’s the wrong person at the wrong time for the wrong job he’d be placed in.”

Manchin said Trump should pick someone else to the job and might be forced to if four or more Republicans come out against the nominee and block him.

Asked directly if he would vote against Ratcliffe, Manchin replied, “Right now, unless something changed immediately, I would be a no. Absolutely.”

CNN has reached out to the White House and Ratcliffe’s office for a response to Manchin’s comments. Earlier Tuesday, Trump praised his pick and said he’d been in contact with Ratcliffe before the Mueller hearing.

“He’s a very talented guy,” Trump said of Ratcliffe when leaving the White House Tuesday morning for an event in Virginia. “He’s a strong man. It’s what we need in that position.”

Later Tuesday, Trump said he hopes Ratcliffe can “rein in” US agencies.

“I think that John Ratcliffe is going to do an incredible job, if he gets approved,” Trump told reporters at the White House, adding later, “I think we need somebody like that that’s strong and can really rein it in. As you’ve all learned, the intelligence agencies have run amok. They’ve run amok.”

Manchin added that he doesn’t think Ratcliffe will be an “honest broker” or will be “speaking truth to power to the President.”

He also said Ratcliffe appears to ideological in his outlook on intelligence issues.

“His views are not objective,” Manchin said. “He’s very committed in his views and outspoken.”