Saturday, 30 May, 2020

Next US coronavirus rescue package not too far off: McConnell By Reuters

Senate confirms Trump nominee John Ratcliffe to be top US spy Senate confirms Trump loyalist John Ratcliffe as Director of National Intelligence
Deanna Wagner | 23 May, 2020, 04:23

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted to issue a subpoena for its investigation into Hunter Biden, the son of presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, though there's no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden.

While some members of the Senate are keen to cool down spending on more coronavirus relief packages - or at least wait to see how the situation develops in June, several Republican party members are pressing for a second round of stimulus payments to help struggling Americans ride out the financial crisis.

First elected to the US Congress, Ratcliffe sits on the House judiciary and intelligence committees.

Ratcliffe assumes the position as the country faces a wide range of security threats, including the coronavirus pandemic, stiff competition with China and the widespread expectation that Russian Federation is attempting to interfere in the 2020 U.S. election. Ratcliffe to head the intelligence community at the end of February, days after he fired the former acting DNI chief Joseph Maguire.

The Texas Republican seemed unlikely to get the position when Trump in February announced plans to nominate him, as he had already been selected for the job past year and then withdrew after Republicans questioned his experience.

He takes over at a sensitive moment. U.S.

James Clapper, his Senate-confirmed predecessor, was confirmed by a voice vote.

But senators warmed to him as they grew concerned about upheaval in the intelligence community under Trump and wanted a permanent, confirmed director.

Democrats allowed a quick vote on Ratcliffe's nomination, dropping their usual procedural delays in a signal that despite their skepticism, they prefer him in the job over Grenell.

Family of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi 'forgives' killers
Khashoggi's son Salah said at the time of the December verdict that "it has been fair to us and that justice has been achieved". Investigators believe that he was murdered and dismembered while she waited outside, but his remains have never been recovered.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said last summer Ratcliffe had been selected because he had shown "blind loyalty" to Trump. "A unsafe combination", he said.

"Direct aid to county governments isn't just a good idea and it isn't only responding to an emergency - it's necessary if this country wants to grapple and claw its way back onto its feet", says Dutchess County Executive Mark Molinaro.

Before being elected to Congress in 2014, Ratcliffe was mayor of Heath, Texas, and a US attorney in the Eastern District of Texas.

Mr. Grenell, the first openly gay member of Mr. Trump's Cabinet, has been criticized for his lack of intelligence experience and has repeatedly sparred with members of Congress.

But given a second chance, Ratcliffe worked to separate himself from the president at his confirmation hearing, including by saying he believed Russian Federation interfered in the 2016 presidential election, a conclusion Trump has resisted.

A US intelligence consensus has reportedly concluded the virus most likely originated naturally, but Mr. Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo say they have seen evidence that a Chinese lab in Wuhan could have played a role in releasing the new virus.

Trump has also shown himself as eager to have intelligence agencies investigate matters that he hopes will support his political positions, with agencies now trying to determine whether the coronavirus pandemic emerged in a laboratory in China or from a market. Republicans have voiced opposition to the bill and claimed it will not get through the Senate.

In the following weeks, Mr. Trump removed a small handful of top intelligence officials, including Michael Atkinson, former inspector general for the intelligence community.

On Tuesday, Republicans released a January 2017 email that Susan Rice, President Barack Obama's national security adviser, wrote to herself.