DNI Ratcliffe Scrambles To Boost Laptop Conspiracy Theory, Push For Trump Re-Election

House Judiciary Committee member John Ratcliffe (R-TX) listens to opening statements during a markup hearing on the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill December 11, 2019. (Photo by ... House Judiciary Committee member John Ratcliffe (R-TX) listens to opening statements during a markup hearing on the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill December 11, 2019. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) MORE LESS
Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe did his job on Monday, telling Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo that stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop were not part of a Russian disinformation campaign.

Ratcliffe’s remarks were oddly worded, but they managed to communicate a message that undercut intelligence community officials who have long maintained that allegations that Joe Biden interfered in Ukrainian politics to protect his son are part of a Russian disinformation campaign.

“The intelligence community doesn’t believe that because there is no intelligence that supports that,” Ratcliffe said.

The DNI’s comments have been contradicted by multiple outlets reporting that the FBI is investigating the laptop as part of a potential foreign disinformation operation.

Separately, Ratcliffe appeared to suggest that the broader allegations around Biden and Ukraine were also, definitively, not part of any Russian disinformation plot.

That’s been contradicted by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which released a report in August describing the narrative that Biden ordered the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor to protect his son as boosted by Russian intelligence. Counterintelligence Chief William Evanina said in a July statement that the Russian government was working to hurt Biden’s chances at victory in November.

The New York Post began to publish articles last week based off of emails gathered from a supposed copy of Hunter Biden’s laptop, itself of bizarre provenance.

Since then, the GOP infrastructure and its hangers on have jumped into the fray, boosting the story to millions without seriously questioning the origin of the materials or, more broadly, whether they point towards anything resembling evidence that Biden fired a Ukrainian prosecutor to protect his son.

Ratcliffe himself strode past those pesky details in his interview with Bartiromo, instead saying that President Trump should be re-elected to prevent Democrats from returning to power.

As director of national intelligence, Ratcliffe has declassified documents that Trumpworld has spun as showing some level of wrongdoing in the Obama administration and which feed into conspiracy theories pushed by the President that Trump was the victim of a coup attempt orchestrated by the Democratic Party.

There’s no evidence to support any of this, and the limited documents that Ratcliffe has declassified have included, among other things, unproven allegations from Russian intelligence that Hillary Clinton was behind allegations that President Trump had ties to the Russian government.

Specifically, the former congressman from Texas argued, there were “abuses of power within the intelligence community and within law enforcement — some of which has now been proven to be criminal.”

“Those are the same people that want to return to power,” Ratcliffe added. “They want to have the same opportunity to control the levers of power and, again, to mislead the American people.”

Ratcliffe went even further in the interview, taking the traditionally apolitical job of director of national intelligence and using the platform to all but ask voters to cast a ballot for President Trump.

“So, I think that’s something the American people should consider as they go in and look at elections and everything that is going on in this country,” Ratcliffe added.

Former DNI Dan Coats issued a statement in May 2019 that appeared to anticipate much of the politicization that has occurred since then. In response to an order that Trump issued at the time which gave Attorney General William Barr the power to obtain and declassify documents from the intelligence community, Coats said that the intelligence community would “continue to faithfully execute its mission of providing timely, apolitical intelligence to the President and policymakers.”

Latest Muckraker
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: