Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) has been tapped to become the next director of national intelligence (DNI), a job tasked with overseeing the intelligence community and preparing the President’s daily intelligence brief.
But Ratcliffe will bring something new to the job: a long history of alleging political interference at the Justice Department and goading on investigations of those probing President Trump as one of the commander-in-chief’s top attack dogs in Congress.
The Texas congressman drew attention last week for his questioning of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in what was seen as a tryout for his nomination as DNI.
But before Ratcliffe passed his tryout session last week, the Texas congressman spent years leading the charge against the Mueller investigation and alleging that the Obama-era Justice Department was a politicized mess hell-bent on shielding Hillary Clinton from accountability and reversing the results of the 2016 election.
In one appearance after Attorney General Bill Barr’s appointment in February 2019, he told Fox News’s Maria Bartiromo that Barr had “the opportunity to be perhaps the most consequential attorney general of our lifetime.”
During the appearance, Ratcliffe added that Barr would be able to “restore the American people’s confidence in a Justice Department that has been torn apart by the darkest chapters that have been written under the Comey-Lynch-McCabe era of the Justice Department” and that his first action should be “to bring in Bob Mueller” and say “after two years, either you have the evidence or you don’t.”
Now, he will be entrusted with passing classified information to Barr for ongoing investigations into the origins of the Russia investigation, as per a May 2019 order from Trump that delegated declassification authority to the attorney general. Former U.S. Attorney for Connecticut John Durham is examining how the probe began.
Outgoing DNI chief Dan Coats issued a statement in May regarding Barr’s accumulation of powers, assuring everyone that the intelligence community would “continue” to share “apolitical intelligence” with government agencies.
In dozens of public statements since being elected to Congress in 2014, Ratcliffe spearheaded the attempt to run interference for Trump and spawn narratives to counter the Mueller investigation, while also digging deep into the Clinton email scandal.
In June 2016, Ratcliffe assailed then-attorney general Loretta Lynch for alleged bias in the Clinton email investigation, saying that the “American people have every right to wonder whether you looked this through a fair and impartial lens” after Lynch refused to say that she would not accept employment in a future Clinton Administration.
As the Russia investigation intensified after Trump’s election, Ratcliffe swiveled toward investigating the investigators on the special counsel team.
He told former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at a December 2017 hearing that there was evidence of “actual hatred for the subject of the special counsel’s investigation by folks serving as the independent investigators and lawyers on the special counsel itself.”
Ratcliffe added that “if they lose faith and trust in organizations like the FBI and the Department of Justice to fairly investigate and adjudicate violations of the law, then we may lose the republic.”
One June 2018 hearing with Justice Department Inspector General Mike Horowitz saw Ratcliffe grill the department watchdog over allegations that text messages from FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page had compromised the special counsel investigation.
“Another thing thats antithetical to the FBI and the Department of Justice and our entire justice system is putting people in charge of investigating people they hate, of people that they are biased against and prejudiced against, right?” he said. “And yet that is precisely what happened to President Trump.”
Elsewhere, Ratcliffe criticized elements of the investigation itself.
In a February 2019 appearance with Fox News’s Maria Bartiromo, Ratcliffe said that there should have been no press conference or unsealed indictment of Russian hackers and trolls charged with crimes relating to interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“Those indictments should have remain sealed until you could lure those defendants to a jurisdiction from which they could be extradited, arrested, and then unseal the indictments,” he said. “So it really seems like, from my perspective, this is more about the special counsel trying to justify the wok that they’re doing and their existence rather than trying to seriously prosecute those who meddled in our election.”
A spokeswoman for Ratcliffe did not reply to a request for comment. His nomination will be pending before the Senate.