Rep. John Ratcliffe has withdrawn from consideration as the next director of national intelligence, President Donald Trump said Friday, on the heels of continued questions about Ratcliffe's qualifications for the job.
Ratcliffe's withdrawal, which Trump blamed on unfair media coverage of the Texas Republican, came just five days after the president announced that current national intelligence chief Dan Coats would leave his post in mid-August, and that Ratcliffe would be nominated to replace him.
And it came several days after Ratcliffe aids had to walk back his claims that as a federal prosecutor he had won convictions of terrorism cases.
Trump said that Ratcliffe, who will remain in Congress, "is being treated very unfairly by the LameStream media."
"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 ... John has therefore decided to stay in Congress where he has done such an outstanding job representing the people of Texas, and our Country," Trump said on Twitter.
The president said he would soon announce another person as his nominee for director of national intelligence.
Trump told reporters later that Ratcliffe's withdrawal camed when, "I asked him, I said, 'do you want to go through this for two or three months, or would you want me to maybe do something else?' And he thought about it, I said, 'it's gonna be rough.' "
"I could see exactly where the press was going. Fake news. He's a fine man, he's a fine man," Trump said. "And so we hadn't started the process and I thought it's easier before we start. But I read things that were just unfair. And he's just too good. He doesn't deserve it."
But after blasting the media for its coverage of Ratcliff, Trump told reporters that they are part of the vetting process for his nominees, a number of whom, such Federal Reserve Board pick Stephen Moore and Veterans Affairs choice Dr. Ronny Jackson, withdrew from consideration after articles raising questions about their backgounds.
"You vet for me. When I give a name, I give it out to the press, and you vet for me," Trump said. "A lot of times you do a very good jobs, not always.The vetting process for the White House is very good, but you're part of the vetting process, you know? ... We save a lot of money that way.
He also said he has a list of three candidates for DNI, and may announce his pick on Monday.
Trump's announcement came as NBC News reported that Trump plans to prevent the prevent the principal deputy Director of National Intelligence, Sue Gordon, from becoming acting director, after Coats leaves. Intelligence officials told NBC News that Trump is not a fan of Gordon, and that he plans to appoint his own acting DNI.
In a Twitter thread, Ratcliffe said, ""I was humbled and honored that the President put his trust in me to lead our nation's intelligence operations and remain convinced that when confirmed, I would have done so with the objectivity, fairness and integrity that our intelligence agencies need and deserve."
"However, I do not wish for a national security and intelligence debate surrounding my confirmation, however untrue, to become a purely political and partisan issue. The country we all love deserves that it be treated as an American issue," Ratcliffe said.
"Accordingly, I have asked the President to nominate someone other than me for this position."
Ratcliffe's congressional web site claims that "as a U.S. Attorney, I arrested over 300 illegal immigrants in a single day," in 2008. But The Washington Post noted in an article Thursday that just 45 undocumented workers at poultry plant were actually prosecuted by Ratcliffe's office at U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas in connection with those arrests.
Ratcliffe gained national attention last week in his questioning of former special counsel Robert Mueller, who had investigated Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and the Trump campaign's contact with Russians and information stolen by Russian agents.
Ratcliffe castigated Mueller for having noted in his report summarizing the probe that while the special counsel did not recommend that Trump be charged with obstruction of justice, the investigation did not exonerate the president.
"Can you give me an example other than Donald Trump where the Justice Department determined that an investigated person was not exonerated because their innocence was not conclusively determined?" Ratcliffe asked.
Mueller responded:" "I cannot, but this is a unique situation."
"You can't find it, because – I'll tell you why – it doesn't exist," Ratcliffe fired back.