[Congressional Record Volume 166, Number 96 (Thursday, May 21, 2020)]
[Pages S2564-S2572]

                           EXECUTIVE SESSION


                           EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will 
proceed to executive session to resume consideration of the following 
nomination which the clerk will report.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk read the nomination of John L. 
Ratcliffe, of Texas, to be Director of National Intelligence.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.


                    Nomination of John L. Ratcliffe

  On another matter, later today, the Senate will vote on whether to 
confirm Representative   John Ratcliffe to serve as the Director of 
National Intelligence, which oversees the 17 different intelligence 
agencies. It is one of the most important posts that this Chamber is 
asked to fill. It requires someone with unimpeachable integrity, deep 
experience, and the independence and backbone to speak truth to power. 
That is what DNIs, including the previous one, Dan Coats, did.
  Unfortunately, Mr. Ratcliffe doesn't even come close to meeting that 
high bar. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to speak with 
Congressman Ratcliffe over the phone. I expressed my concerns that his 
history as a vocal defender of the President casts doubt on his 
qualifications and credibility
  I asked him to simply confirm the unequivocal conclusion of our 17 
intelligence agencies that Putin interfered in the 2016 elections to 
help President Trump. He could not confirm it.
  I asked him if he would commit to basic, specific steps to improve 
transparency and communications between DNI and Congress--for instance, 
that every 2 weeks the staffs of the Gang of 8 be briefed by the DNI on 
what is happening in terms of election interference, that immediately 
Congress be notified if Russia or another foreign country attempts to 
interfere in our election. I asked him to do that within 72 hours. In 
neither case would he commit. That is not the kind of DNI we need.
  So Congressman Ratcliffe did little to address my concerns about his 
nomination, and I will vehemently oppose his nomination today. More 
than ever, we need the right person to serve as DNI. Over the past few 
months we have watched President Trump try to short circuit nearly 
every measure of independence and accountability within the executive 
  By baselessly firing one inspector general after another, President 
Trump has shown he will not tolerate anyone

[[Page S2566]]

standing up to his personal political interests, right or wrong. This 
is a dangerous pattern that should send a shiver down the spine of 
anyone who believes in democracy and is particularly relevant to the 
intelligence community, which must be able to inform the President of 
difficult truths.
  Mr. Ratcliffe, unfortunately, has not demonstrated the qualities nor 
the independence that we should expect of the next leader of the 
intelligence community. I will vote no and encourage my colleagues on 
both sides of the aisle, for the sake of the independence and strength 
of our intelligence community, which has served us so well for decades, 
to join me in voting no.
  I yield the floor.


  Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, in 50 minutes we are voting to confirm 
the nominee as Director of National Intelligence. Today, I want to 
discuss Congressman Ratcliffe's confirmation as Director of National 
  I want to congratulate that Congressman on a job well done. With this 
new position comes great responsibility. Congressman Ratcliffe will 
have tremendous power to do good and to be transparent.
  I would like to remind Congressman Ratcliffe, as I have reminded many 
heads of departments before, transparency brings accountability, and 
the public's business ought to be public.
  By its very nature, the intelligence community is a secretive bunch. 
They often operate in the shadows and have to in order to do the job 
that we ask them to do to protect our national security.
  However, that doesn't mean when Congress asks them questions, the 
intelligence community has a license to withhold information.
  When Congress comes knocking, the intelligence community must answer. 
After all, the intelligence community does not appear anywhere in the 
Constitution. The intelligence community is a creation of Congress; 
Congress isn't a creation of the intelligence

[[Page S2570]]

community. The intelligence community answers to us and, in turn, to 
the American people.
  Acting Director Grenell, now in that position as acting, understood 
that. He is perhaps one of the most transparent government officials in 
my time serving the great people of Iowa.
  Ambassador Grenell is a breath of fresh air. Mr. Ratcliffe has some 
big shoes to fill; that is for sure. Luckily, he has Acting Director 
Grenell's example to guide him.
  Mr. Grenell's short time as Acting Director has resulted in a number 
of very important items being declassified. For example, he and 
Attorney General Barr declassified dozens of footnotes from the Justice 
Department's inspector general's report that show how the Department of 
Justice and the FBI mishandled the Russian investigation.
  To give some highlights of what those previously classified footnotes 
show, let me go through six or seven of them.
  One, the Russian intelligence was aware of Steele's anti-Trump 
research in early July 2016, before the FBI opened Crossfire Hurricane. 
That means the Russians knew they could possibly use the Steele dossier 
as a vehicle to plant disinformation and sow chaos to undermine the 
American Government.
  Two, the FBI had an open counterintelligence case on Steele's key 
source, but they failed to give that information to the FISA Court.
  The FBI had intelligence that some of Steele's sources had 
connections to Russian intelligence. That is point three.
  Point four, Steele had sources connected to the Presidential 
administration, and some supported Clinton, not Trump.
  Five, the Crossfire Hurricane team was aware in late January 2017 
that Russian intelligence may have targeted Orbis. Orbis is Steele's 
  Six, Steele's primary subsource viewed his or her contacts not as a 
network of sources but, rather, as simply friends that discussed 
current events.
  Seven, two intelligence reports--one from January 12, 2017, the other 
from February 27, 2017--indicated that information contained within the 
Steele dossier was a product of Russian disinformation. This 
information was withheld from the FISA Court, and the FBI continued to 
use the Steele dossier to justify surveillance on Carter Page.
  I also want to note a very interesting fact about the January 12, 
2017, date. Not only did the FBI learn that the dossier, their 
``central and essential'' document, was most likely filled with this 
Russian disinformation, they then failed to inform the FISA Court about 
it on the very same day that the FBI got the FISA renewal on Carter 
Page. Do you know what? It was renewed two more times.
  My fellow Americans, what the FBI did is a complete travesty. You 
have to ask yourselves: Why did they do it? Well, the text messages 
from Strzok and Page that I made public help us better understand that 
question. Their animus toward Trump helped to explain why the FBI 
employees cut corners and didn't follow regular protocol in running 
their inquiry.
  As I have mentioned before, Strzok's text to Page about how he will 
``stop'' Trump from becoming President is very telling. But thanks to 
Acting Director Grenell and Attorney General Barr, these texts can now 
be read in a greater context.
  For example, on August 15, 2016, Strzok texts Page:

       I want to believe the path that you threw out for 
     consideration in Andy's office--

  And that was referring to Andrew McCabe--

     that there's no way Trump gets elected--but I'm afraid we 
     can't take that risk. It's like an insurance policy in the 
     unlikely event you die before you're 40.

  The next day, on August 16, 2016, the FBI opened the Flynn probe, 
code-named Crossfire Razor.
  On August 17, 2016, the FBI used a briefing for Trump, who was now 
the Republican nominee, and Flynn to surveil Flynn for his 
``mannerisms''--what is said about it, I don't know--and whether he 
mentioned anything about Russia.
  Let's also not forget about the text from November 2016 that Senator 
Johnson and I made public. Those texts between Strzok and Page show 
that the FBI used a November 2016 briefing for Presidential transition 
staff as a counterintelligence operation.
  For example, Strzok told Page:

       He can assess if there are any new questions or different 
     demeanor. If Katie's husband is there, he can see if there 
     are people we can develop for potential relationships.

  That is an astounding finding. Imagine if that had been done by the 
Democratic nominee. You wouldn't hear the end of it. In fact, they 
would probably call for another special counsel. Yet because it is 
Trump and Flynn, the media has gone largely quiet.

  On January 4, 2017, the FBI wrote a closing memorandum on Flynn that 
said the intelligence community could find no derogatory information on 
him. That should have been the end of it.
  Yet on the very same day that the FBI was ready to close the Flynn 
case, Strzok asked another FBI agent: ``Hey, if you haven't closed 
Razor don't do it yet.'' The case was still open at that moment and 
Strzok asked that it be kept open ``for now.''
  Strzok then messaged Lisa Page, saying that Razor still happened to 
be open because of some oversight and said: ``Yeah, our utter 
incompetence actually helps us. 20 percent of the time.''
  Then the next day, on January 5, 2017, President Obama met with 
Director Comey, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, Vice President 
Biden, and National Security Advisor Susan Rice. In that meeting, they 
briefed Obama on the Russia investigation.
  On January 5, 2017, the very same day as the Oval Office briefing 
with Obama and Biden, an Obama administration official leaked the 
existence of the December 29, 2016, Flynn call with the Russian 
Ambassador. However, that leak hadn't yet been publicly reported.
  Also on January 5, Obama's Chief of Staff requested to unmask Flynn. 
According to Deputy Attorney General Yates, when she met with Obama on 
that day, Obama already knew about Flynn's call with the Russian 
Ambassador. She was surprised that Obama knew about it already.
  On January 11, 2017, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power requested to 
unmask Flynn. She requested this be done seven times after the 
election. She ought to explain why she did that.
  Then on January 12, 2017, Vice President Biden requested to unmask 
Flynn. That same day, the existence of Flynn's call with the Russian 
Ambassador was leaked and ran in the Washington Post.
  Then, in February 2017, the alleged contents of the call were leaked. 
Those leaks are a criminal action. They are some of the many criminal 
leaks that occurred during the transition period and, also, the early 
days of the Trump administration, which were obviously designed to 
undermine the new administration. I assume U.S. Attorney Durham is 
investigating all of those leaks.
  With respect to the unmasking, what I would like to know is, Why did 
so many Obama administration officials who were not within the 
intelligence field request to unmask Flynn? The sheer volume of 
unmasking and the timing cause me to question whether it was 
politically motivated.
  Based on the facts that we now know, it appears that the Obama 
administration's top law enforcement agency, as well as the 
intelligence community, engaged in a coordinated effort to cut the legs 
from under the Trump administration before they could even get their 
footing. The American people have had to suffer through years of 
criminal leaks, innuendos, false news reports, and flatout lies--all 
designed to destroy the Trump administration. The Russian investigation 
should have closed shop early on, especially when the people they 
surveilled from the Trump campaign offered exculpatory evidence--
evidence which showed that the Trump campaign wasn't involved in the 
Democratic National Committee hack and didn't have the Russian 
connections the FBI thought they had. By the way, that evidence was 
hidden from the FISA Court by the FBI.
  Obama has said DOJ and FBI must be kept independent of White House 
interference. Yet, based on information that we have at this point, it 
appears that he and Biden were much more involved in aspects of the 
Russia investigation than they would like to have us believe.
  Ultimately, Obama and Biden will have to answer for what they knew 
and when they knew it. That shouldn't be a

[[Page S2571]]

problem for the so-called most transparent administration in history, 
as they used to tell us all the time.
  Simply said, heads need to roll over this. If they don't, the 
intelligence community, the Department of Justice, and the Federal 
Bureau of Investigation may never get the people's trust.
  Where do we go from here? On May 12, 2020, I wrote a letter to Acting 
Director Grenell that requested a broad range of information relating 
to unmasking by the Obama administration. On May 19, I expanded that 
request with Senator Johnson. Prior to that, I wrote to the Justice 
Department and Mr. Grenell, requesting that the transcripts of Flynn's 
calls with the Russian Ambassador and Susan Rice's infamous January 20, 
2017, email to herself be declassified, among other things. That email 
has now been declassified and casts further doubts on the FBI's 
  I have also requested, along with Senator Johnson, underlying 
intelligence reports from the Russia investigation. Moreover, reports 
suggest that the Obama administration unmasked a lot more U.S. persons 
related to the Trump campaign than just General Flynn.
  The responsibility to respond to these requests will now fall on 
Congressman Ratcliffe. Hopefully, he is as helpful to congressional 
oversight and public accountability as Ambassador Grenell. Let's see it 
all. The American public has waited long enough.
  Finally, I want to remind Congressman Ratcliffe and the intelligence 
community of the hold I placed on William Evanina. I did that 2 years 
ago. I placed that hold in my capacity as chairman of the Judiciary 
  I have explained in detail many times before why I placed a hold on 
him, and I am not going to bother explaining it again, other than to 
mention that Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein agreed to give me the 
documents, and he never did. In turn, General Rosenstein blamed 
Director Coats, who then blamed Rosenstein.
  You have heard it before--all of my colleagues have. Whether you have 
a Republican or Democratic administration, it is your typical 
bureaucratic blame game. Thanks to Acting Director Grenell and Attorney 
General Barr, the blame game has ended.
  But, importantly, especially for future administrations and for 
Congressman Ratcliffe, I want to make very clear that the Judiciary 
Committee's jurisdiction extends to the intelligence community. Since 
the authorization resolution that created the Senate Select Committee 
on Intelligence, the Senate explicitly reserved for other standing 
committees, such as the Senate Judiciary Committee, independent 
authority to ``study and review any intelligence activity'' and ``to 
obtain full and prompt access to the product of the intelligence 
activities of any department or agency'' when such activity ``directly 
affects a matter otherwise within the jurisdiction of such committee.''
  The Senate Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over all Federal 
courts, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, where a 
lot of intelligence activity takes place. Of course, all of Congress, 
not just any one committee or any one Senator, has the constitutional 
authority over the intelligence community.
  In conclusion, please, Congressman Ratcliffe and, please, the greater 
intelligence community, remember you were created by statute, but 
Congress was created by the Constitution
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oregon.
  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, in a few minutes, the Senate is going to 
vote on the nomination of   John Ratcliffe to be Director of National 
Intelligence. I have come to the floor to discuss this important 
  Senators often come to this floor to talk about the importance of 
speaking truth to power.   John Ratcliffe, in his statement before the 
Intelligence Committee and in his written responses, revealed he would 
not speak truth to power; he would surrender to it. He demonstrated 
that he is so eager to serve power, he will twist the truth, and he 
showed this again and again.
  For example, in the name of helping power, we saw him dance around 
direct questions about whether he would respect or even understood the 
law.   John Ratcliffe made a number of extremely disturbing statements 
that make it clear that he has and will misrepresent and politicize 
intelligence without a moment's hesitation.
  I asked the Congressman at his hearing about a law that requires a 
public, unclassified report on who was responsible for the murder of 
the Washington Post journalist and U.S. resident, Jamal Khashoggi. This 
was a law passed by the Congress and signed by the President of the 
United States. This law required the Director of National Intelligence 
to produce that unclassified report on who killed Jamal Khashoggi and 
what the circumstances were in February. That has never happened.
  At his nomination hearing, I simply asked the Congressman whether the 
government was bound by the law. In his response, the Congressman 
called the law a request for unclassified information. That is how he 
referred to this law. Then the Congressman promised to take a look at 
it. In his own words,   John Ratcliffe wouldn't commit to following 
that important law without knowing the circumstances of who killed 
Jamal Khashoggi. I believe it is open season on journalists.
  How   John Ratcliffe danced around that question of whether he would 
comply with the law is a disqualification by itself to be the head of 
national intelligence.
  This was a pattern throughout the hearing.   John Ratcliffe had his 
talking points down, but the moment he was asked anything specific, he 
danced away. I am just going to take a few minutes to give some 
examples. Obviously, it is critically important to know a nominee's 
views for this position on the question of spying on Americans.
  I asked   John Ratcliffe three times in prehearing questions, at the 
hearing, and again after the hearing, whether the statute that 
prohibits warrantless wiretapping on Americans was binding. Each time,  
 John Ratcliffe left himself lots of wiggle room to suggest that 
whatever this law said, the President might have ways to go around it. 
He also said he would work with the Attorney General, who we know has 
explicitly said that he doesn't believe the foreign intelligence 
surveillance law is binding on the President.
  This is really where   John Ratcliffe could be dangerous. With Donald 
Trump as President and William Barr as Attorney General, the leadership 
of the intelligence community is one of democracy's last lines of 
defense. That is why the American people need a Director of National 
Intelligence who understands how the law protects their rights and 
won't start conducting warrantless wiretapping on Americans just 
because the Attorney General wrongly claims that it is legal.
  Nothing that   John Ratcliffe has said during his confirmation 
process or throughout his career provides a glimmer of hope that he is 
a person who would speak truth to power and stand up for the rights of 
  There are plenty more reasons to oppose this nomination, but in the 
interest of time, I am going to focus on just one more, and that is   
John Ratcliffe's blatant misrepresentation and politicizing of 
intelligence. This was obvious in how he talked about the intelligence 
community's assessment that the Russians interfered in the 2016 
election to help Donald Trump. This is a view undisputed within the 
intelligence community. The Senate Intelligence Committee looked at it 
up and down, and it was the unanimous judgment of the Intelligence 
Committee that it was true.
  Yet for   John Ratcliffe, the intelligence really doesn't matter. All 
that matters is that he makes Donald Trump happy. If Donald Trump 
doesn't want to acknowledge that the Russians helped him, then those 
are   John Ratcliffe's marching orders.
  It is the exact opposite of speaking truth to power and that is why, 
at the beginning of my remarks, I described his views with respect to 
power as not speaking truth but totally surrendering to power.
  He is also perfectly happy to misrepresent the intelligence even when 
it is public and we can read it with our own eyes. Three times during 
his hearing, he said that the Russians did not succeed in changing the 
outcome of the 2016 election. This position of   John

[[Page S2572]]

Ratcliffe directly contradicts what the Intelligence community had 
written in plain English. It said: ``We did not make an assessment of 
the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 
election.'' So I asked   John Ratcliffe where he got his information. 
He referred back to the Intelligence community's assessment and the 
committee's report, neither of which supported   John Ratcliffe's 
  You have to ask yourself, Why would   John Ratcliffe say something 
that is obviously not true? That is because Donald Trump wants us to 
believe that he didn't benefit from Russian interference, and that, 
first and foremost, is what matters to   John Ratcliffe. If   John 
Ratcliffe is willing to misrepresent intelligence assessments that are 
already public that anybody can read for themselves, my take is there 
is no telling how he would misrepresent intelligence that is still 
  There is every reason to believe his public statements would be 
designed for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to make sure 
that Donald Trump is pleased. Neither the Congress nor the American 
people have any reason to trust that   John Ratcliffe's testimony or 
his other public statements are accurate.
  My view is this kind of approach taken by the Director of National 
Intelligence is a real threat to democracy. When the Director of 
National Intelligence demonstrates that he is willing to bury the 
actual intelligence and say whatever makes Donald Trump happy at any 
particular moment, the American people are going to lose confidence and 
lose confidence quickly.
  It is not just about foreign interference in our democracy. That is 
plenty serious as it is. It is about other threats from countries like 
Iran, North Korea, and China. It is about weapons of mass destruction 
and terrorism. It is about whether the government is secretly spying on 
Americans without a warrant or committing torture. Ultimately, it is 
about the issue of war and peace and whether Americans will be asked to 
die for our country.
  The American people look to intelligence leaders for the facts--the 
facts, the unvarnished truth on these and other issues, which is why it 
is so important this position must have a foundation of credibility.
  Time and again,   John Ratcliffe has demonstrated that he does not 
clear that lowest bar; that bar that means you have to have credibility 
in this position, and I urge my colleagues, when we vote in a few 
minutes, to reject   John Ratcliffe's nomination to be Director of 
National Intelligence.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. SCOTT of Florida. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that 
the order for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. Fischer). Without objection, it is so 

                      Vote on Ratcliffe Nomination

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is, Will the Senate advise and 
consent to the Ratcliffe nomination?
  Mr. SCOTT of Florida. Madam President, I ask for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
  There appears to be a sufficient second.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk called the roll.
  Mr. THUNE. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the Senator 
from Tennessee (Mr. Alexander), the Senator from North Carolina (Mr. 
Burr), the Senator from Alaska (Ms. Murkowski), and the Senator from 
South Dakota (Mr. Rounds).
  Further, if present and voting, the Senator from Tennessee (Mr. 
Alexander) would have voted ``yea.''
  Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from Massachusetts (Mr. 
Markey), the Senator from Washington (Mrs. Murray), and the Senator 
from Vermont (Mr. Sanders) are necessarily absent.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Are there any other Senators in the Chamber 
desiring to vote?
  The result was announced--yeas 49, nays 44, as follows:

                      [Rollcall Vote No. 101 Ex.]


     Scott (FL)
     Scott (SC)


     Cortez Masto
     Van Hollen

                             NOT VOTING--7

  The nomination was confirmed


[Congressional Record Volume 166, Number 96 (Thursday, May 21, 2020)]
[Page S2582]


  Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I rise today in opposition to the 
confirmation of Congressman   John Ratcliffe to be Director of National 
  I voted against   John Ratcliffe for Director of National 
Intelligence for three key reasons.
  First, I do not believe Congressman Ratcliffe is qualified for the 
position of Director of National Intelligence, DNI.
  By law, a DNI requires ``extensive national security expertise.'' 
Past DNIs have been career civil servants or military officers with 
extensive experience in intelligence and foreign affairs.
  By contrast, Congressman Ratcliffe has been a member of Congress for 
4 years and the mayor of a small town in Texas. His sole intelligence 
community experience is a single year on the House Intelligence 
  I am deeply concerned that during his hearings he was unable to 
demonstrate a sufficient understanding of the most pressing threats and 
challenges that we face as a nation.
  Second, I am very concerned with Congressman Ratcliffe's position on 
  During his nomination hearing, he refused to denounce torture. He 
refused to admit that certain CIA actions following 9/11 were torture. 
And he refused to agree that waterboarding is torture, regardless of 
potential changes to U.S. law.
  Torture is morally reprehensible, and the head of our intelligence 
community must be willing to say so and prevent it from happening 
  Third, the DNI must not be politically motivated. The DNI directs 17 
intelligence agencies with a budget of more than $60 billion and is 
responsible for providing objective intelligence analysis to the 
  Congressman Ratcliffe is a vocal defender of President Trump and 
served on his impeachment defense team. I am concerned that politics 
would interfere in his duties if he were confirmed.
  We need a confirmed DNI with the right experience and objectivity to 
do the job.
  Congressman Ratcliffe was nominated for this position last year and 
subsequently withdrew. Nothing has changed since then to qualify him 
for this role.