Dispatch July 30, 2019

Trump’s DNI Pick Will Make It Easier for Russia in 2020

On Sunday, Trump announced he would be nominating Rep. John Ratcliffe to replace Dan Coats as the Director of National Intelligence. Ratcliffe, who serves on both the Judiciary and Intelligence committees, proved himself to be a loyal Trump soldier during last week’s Mueller testimony.

Ratcliffe is just a new Bill Barr.

  • We have seen this pattern from Trump before. After constantly criticizing Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, Sessions eventually was forced out, and Trump appointed Barr in his place. Barr worked to undermine Mueller and the release of Mueller’s final report.
  • Now it’s happening again. Outgoing DNI Dan Coats recognizes Russia as a serious threat, and recently created a new position to oversee threats against election security. But Trump didn’t like his efforts to protect America from Russia and forced him out his position.
  • In his place, Trump will nominate a man who has made it clear that he doesn’t take Russian threats seriously.
  • Ratcliffe, who (it turns out) is allegedly lying about one of his only qualifications for the job, is just a new Bill Barr.
  • By serving as DNI, Ratcliffe will only make it easier for Russia to continue to interfere in U.S. democratic processes.

Ratcliffe defended Trump and attacked Mueller for not exonerating the president.

  • Ratcliffe tried to argue that it was unacceptable to not exonerate Trump.
    • He repeatedly demanded to know, “Which DOJ policy or principle set forth a legal standard that an investigated person is not exonerated if their innocence from criminal conduct is not conclusively determined? Where does that language come from, Director? Where is the DOJ policy that says that?”
    • He then demanded “an example other than Donald Trump, where the Justice Department determined that an investigated person was not exonerated […] because their innocence was not conclusively determined?”
    • Mueller, of course, replied that he could not, because this was a “unique situation.”
    • Ratcliffe countered that Mueller could not because “it doesn’t exist.”
  • Ratcliffe argued that “nowhere does it say that you were to conclusively determine Donald Trump’s innocence, or that the special counsel report should determine whether or not to exonerate him.”
  • Ratcliffe stated, “it was not the special counsel’s job to conclusively determine Donald Trump’s innocence or to exonerate him.”
  • It’s clear that Ratcliffe isn’t just making these arguments on principle—he’s doing it to protect Trump. After all, when the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails concluded, Ratcliffe was more than happy to insist on further scrutiny into the matter.

Ratcliffe dragged the committee through Trump’s favorite conspiracy theories.

  • Ratcliffe insisted on claiming that the Steele dossier was submitted “as a central piece of evidence” for “an application and three renewal applications” for the FISA warrant on Carter Page.
    • In fact, the FISA applications also contained evidence that had nothing to do with the dossier, including evidence from 2013 when Page was allegedly recruited by Russian intelligence agents.
    • Ratcliffe was intent on pushing this point because it links to another conspiracy theory claiming that the dossier helped launch the Russia investigation. But even Ratcliffe’s Republican colleague Jim Jordan, the chief Mueller conspiracy theorist in the House, described earlier that day that it did not.
  • Ratcliffe said the “basic premise of the dossier, as you know, was that there was a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, but the special counsel investigation didn’t establish any conspiracy, correct?” When Mueller said he could not comment, Ratcliffe pressed him to stated that he “did not established any conspiracy,” to which Mueller answered again, “I pass.”
    • The Trump campaign had at least 272 contacts and 38 meetings with Russia-linked operatives during the campaign and transition, and lied about every single one of them. That’s a lot of cooperation.
  • Ratcliffe asked Mueller whether Russia “[provided] false information through sources to Christopher Steele about a Trump conspiracy that you determined didn’t exist.”
    • In fact, many allegations in the Steele dossier have turned out to be credible, and DOJ investigators who interviewed Steele earlier this summer in an attempt to discredit his findings “found Steele’s testimony credible and even surprising.”
    • Although this is a conspiracy favored by Fox News and other Republican congressmen, there is no evidence that the dossier contains deliberate Russian disinformation.

Ratcliffe used his brief time during the hearings to attack the investigator and the investigation itself, inaccurately accusing Mueller of violating special counsel regulations and railing against “Democrats and socialists.” That’s not the temperament and seriousness we need from a Director of National Intelligence – that’s just another page from the Trump stooge playbook.