U.S. Senate leader says he hopes Trump intelligence nominee will get bipartisan vote

FILE PHOTO: Senate Majority Leader McConnell speaks to reporters after the Senate voted to acquit U.S. President Trump impeachment trial on Capitol Hill in Washington

(This March 2 story corrects spelling of Maguire in paragraph 9)

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Monday he was pleased President Donald Trump had announced a nominee for director of national intelligence, without expressing an opinion about Representative John Ratcliffe's fitness for the job.

Trump announced on Friday he would for a second time nominate Ratcliffe, a Republican member of the House of Representatives, to be the nation's top spy. Trump had nominated him last summer, but it was dropped amid questions about a lack of experience and possible resume embellishment.

In remarks as the Senate opened on Monday, McConnell said his fellow Republican Trump had record of sending the Senate "impressive" nominees for national security positions.

"I hope Congressman Ratcliffe will impress Senators, just as did the other members of the President's team, and earn a bipartisan confirmation vote," McConnell said.

The Senate's Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, said Ratcliffe was a "rank partisan" and poor choice for a position typically held by individuals with decades of intelligence experience. He called on senators to reject the nominee."With this nomination, President Trump has shown again a lack of respect for the rule of law, for the intelligence community that Republican and Democratic presidents have all shown in the past," Schumer said.

Trump's formal submission to the Senate of Ratcliffe's nomination will allow him to extend for 210 days his appointment of Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany as acting director of national intelligence.

U.S. law would have forced Grenell to step aside as acting director on March 11 unless Trump announced another nominee.

The president named Grenell last month to replace Joseph Maguire, who also served in an acting capacity, after an aide to the former Navy admiral and intelligence veteran briefed the House Intelligence Committee on Russian attempts to interfere in the 2020 presidential race.

Ratcliffe, who has been in Congress since 2015 and is a member of the House intelligence and judiciary committees, was an outspoken defender of Trump during the Democratic-led proceedings that resulted in Trump's impeachment last year on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The Republican-controlled Senate acquitted Trump last month.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, additional reporting by Jonathan Landay; Editing by Sandra Maler and Bill Berkrot)