Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas., asks questions to former special counsel Robert Mueller, as he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Life in Washington these days is definitely a bad reality TV show, no question about it. Characters that have proven unsuccessful when first tried out are now coming back for a second debut — as if anything has changed. And unexpected plot twists are always welcome, such as the one Donald Trump has possibly planned for Richard Grenell. There’s a lot of speculation that John Ratcliffe is being used merely as a place saver, so Trump can do an end run around the rules and keep Grenell around. Read on.

You probably remember all the frou frou last summer about Texas Congressman John Ratcliffe being nominated for Director of National Intelligence and the nomination being uniformly laughed out of the Senate, loudest of all by his Republican colleagues, Richard Burr among them. His inflated resume did not fly and in disgrace Ratcliffe withdrew his nomination, but now he’s back and nothing has changed. Chuck Schumer’s comment summarizes the situation neatly.

But is this the real story? The New York Times points out, Ratcliffe’s nomination might be a smoke screen, so Trump can keep Grenell on board.

But just nominating Mr. Ratcliffe creates a benefit for the White House: Once Mr. Trump sends formal nomination papers to the Senate, it will extend the time the current acting director, Mr. Grenell, a favorite of Mr. Trump’s, can remain in the office. And in the minds of some Democrats, that was the president’s goal at a time when he is seeking to impose greater control over the nation’s intelligence agencies after years of tension that started with the intelligence community’s consensus that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election to help Mr. Trump.

Under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, Mr. Grenell can serve in his post only until March 11 unless the president formally nominates someone else for the job. Under that law, Mr. Grenell would be able to stay an additional 210 days once Mr. Ratcliffe is nominated. Should the Senate reject Mr. Ratcliffe, Mr. Grenell’s tenure would be extended again.

This is something to take a look at and ponder, definitely. But either way that this goes, if Ratcliffe is rubber stamped by the Senate or if it’s a ploy to keep Grenell on board, the bottom line is that the intelligence community and the rule of law both suffer. With either of these two characters, Grenell or Racliffe in charge, the intelligence community would be in Trump’s pocket and greatly hamstrung from doing it’s normal job. This is especially important as the election approaches and pal Putin gears up his efforts to create chaos. The timing on this is not coincidental.

 

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.

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