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May 05, 2020

King Presses DNI Nominee on Responsibility to Serve the Facts, Not Any Particular President

Senator warns against “conclusion shopping,” saying “if you give information to the President that isn’t accurate … that is an act of disloyalty to the President, let alone to the Constitution.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) questioned Congressman John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), nominee to serve as Director of National Intelligence (DNI), on the importance of fact-based intelligence collection and analysis, wholly independent from political considerations. During his questioning, Senator King pressed to Congressman Ratcliffe to clearly confirm under oath that he will follow facts where they lead, regardless of political consequences, make himself available to Congressional oversight, and ensure that neither the President nor any members of the government engage in ‘conclusion shopping.’ 

“You touched on a point with Senator Cotton that I’d like to follow up on, that I think is critically important, and the term I use is ‘conclusion-shopping’,” said Senator King. “It’s in the nature of any executive to want to be told that the intelligence supports whatever policy direction they want to go in. This is a constant struggle that goes back – I don’t care if the president is John F. Kennedy in Vietnam or Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam or George W. Bush and weapons of mass destruction, this is a human nature problem…The question should be ‘Where did the virus come from?’ not ‘Don’t you think it came from a lab?’

“Do you see the distinction I’m trying to make and why this is so crucial? It is crucial to the President him or herself, because if they taint the intelligence before it gets to them they’re going to make bad decisions,” Senator King continued. “We’re protecting the president themselves by guarding against this human nature problem. Every executive wants to hear what they want to hear, every person that works for that executive wants to tell the boss  what they want to hear…I would suggest, and I’ll close with this – if you give information to the President that isn’t accurate, that isn’t unvarnished – that is an act of disloyalty to the President, let alone to the Constitution.”

Senator King has long been a strong supporter of an independent, apolitical Intelligence Community. He cited the importance of this independence last month when he expressed his opposition to the President’s removal of Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson. At the time, King argued “When America has more hard thinkers with independent, evidence-based judgment, we are all safer and stronger…When speaking the truth leads to potential retribution, we know less and are at increased risk; the world we live in is darker and more dangerous.” 

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