John Ratcliffe, Trump’s Pick for Intelligence Chief, Follows a Slew of QAnon Accounts

For a nominee to helm the U.S. government’s intelligence apparatus, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) draws on some unusual sources of information. 

Ratcliffe’s official, verified campaign Twitter account follows several accounts on the political fringe, including a 9/11 Truther account with just one follower besides himself and four promoting the outlandish QAnon conspiracy theory, which posits that the world is run by a cabal of Democratic pedophile-cannibals — and has been ruled a potential source of domestic terrorism by the FBI. 

The conspiracy theorists followed by Ratcliffe, whose nomination for director of national intelligence goes before the Senate intelligence committee Tuesday morning, cover a bizarre range of beliefs. They posit that John F. Kennedy Jr. faked his death to help Trump to take down the Deep State. Others claim a Democratic sex dungeon exists in in a Washington pizzeria. But Ratcliffe and the QAnon promoters he follows have one thing in common: utter loyalty to Trump.

Even before Ratcliffe’s QAnon interest was known, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a committee member, told The Daily Beast, “Congressman Ratcliffe is a partisan politician who has spent the last two years promoting conspiracy theories in defense of Donald Trump.”

It’s not clear whether Ratcliffe followed conspiracy theorists himself, or whether it was done by someone else with access to his Twitter account. The QAnon accounts Ratcliffe follows were first noted by CQ Roll Call editor Ryan Kelly on Twitter.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence referred questions about Ratcliffe’s Twitter account to his congressional office, which didn’t respond to a request for comment. 

Veteran intelligence officials expressed alarm the Senate may soon confirm a Trump loyalist atop the U.S.’s 16 intelligence agencies. “Ratcliffe would be the least qualified person to run the intelligence community, ever, and that includes Ric Grenell,” said former CIA and National Counterterrorism Center analyst Aki Peritz, referring to the acting director of national intelligence. “The hardest job for any intelligence officer is to speak truth to power. Based on Ratcliffe’s past performance, it’s doubtful he can resist the urge to politicize intelligence on behalf of Donald Trump.” 

The willingness of a likely director of national intelligence to entertain conspiracy theorists highlights what Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee consider Ratcliffe’s unfitness for the job. Two committee sources said the minority Democrats intend to press the nominee on his loyalty to Trump – the quality that earned Ratcliffe his nomination – something he displayed with zeal in attacking Robert Mueller’s Russia inquiry and portraying the House Democrats’ impeachment of Trump as a frame-up job. 

At Tuesday’s hearing, the Democrats intend to bring up everything from Russia to the novel coronavirus, where a divide has emerged between the intelligence agencies and the administration over whether the virus was man-made in China. They intend also to question Ratcliffe over the post-impeachment purge of intelligence officials, including several from the office of the director of national intelligence, most recently inspector general Michael Atkinson

“He has little experience in intelligence, and already had to withdraw his nomination once after lying about his resume. The pandemic has shown how putting unqualified loyalists in critical jobs leads to disaster,” said Wyden. “Any Republican who cares for the security of our country should think hard about the consequences of supporting the least qualified, most partisan person ever nominated for DNI.”

But that attests to the expectation on the committee for a party-line vote – which will be enough to advance Ratcliffe’s nomination to the full Senate, where his confirmation can proceed on the same basis. 

Opposition to Ratcliffe had been bipartisan the last time Trump nominated him to run Liberty Crossing, the DNI’s headquarters, in 2019. It lasted a week before Ratcliffe withdrew, following reporting on his false claim to have arrested 300 undocumented immigrants in a single day. 

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