- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Rep. John Ratcliffe promises as the nation’s top spy to accelerate President Trump‘s effort to find out how the FBI began investigating him, aided by the unfounded Democratic Party-financed dossier.

Mr. Trump signed a sweeping directive in May ordering the intelligence community to cooperate with the Justice Department by turning over its Russia investigation documents. Attorney General William P. Barr named John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, to investigate.

Dan Coats, outgoing director of national intelligence, reacted cautiously. He warned against unauthorized disclosures by Mr. Barr, whom the president granted full declassification powers.

But Mr. Ratcliffe, whom Mr. Trump announced as the next DNI, on Sunday expressed “supreme confidence” in Mr. Barr.

“I admire Rep. Ratcliffe, especially his tenacity,” Michael Caputo, a Trump campaign adviser, told The Washington Times. “I’m quite sure it’s this very same quality that has the guilty swamp roiling about his appointment.

“The DNI is a vital position in the work of discovering the breadth and depth of the conspiracy to stop this presidency,” Mr. Caputo said. “I like Dan Coats, but I just don’t think his heart was in this inquiry.”

Mr. Ratcliffe is a member of the Republican coalition trying to unravel the FBI‘s decision-making in 2016. He would be expected to expedite the document transfer to Mr. Durham, who has set up shop in Washington.

Hours before the announcement, Mr. Ratcliffe told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo, “It does appear that there were crimes committed during the Obama administration.”

Here is what Mr. Durham is examining:

During the election, FBI agents placed spies on at least two Trump associates. The bureau embraced a dossier written by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who was paid with money from the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party. The Steele dossier told of a vast Trump-Russia conspiracy, relying exclusively on shadowy Kremlin sources. Special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation didn’t find any conspiracy.

Republicans say this was a clear case of Russian interference in the election and the political process, compliments of the Democratic Party.

It was Rep. Devin Nunes, as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in 2017-2018, who went to court to force Democrats to admit they financed the dossier. The California Republican also won the release of FBI wiretap applications that showed the dossier was the main piece of evidence presented to judges.

This year, Mr. Ratcliffe joined the committee and became a Nunes ally. Republicans were looking for a federal prosecutor who could match wits with committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat. Mr. Schiff, an enthusiastic supporter of the dossier, hired a former federal prosecutor to head his investigation into Mr. Trump‘s business affairs at the Trump Organization.

Mr. Ratcliffe reached some level of fame during Mr. Mueller‘s House testimony on July 24. As millions of people watched on TV, he grilled the former special counsel for stating in his 448-page report that he could not exonerate Mr. Trump of obstruction of justice.

Mr. Ratcliffe, a former U.S. prosecutor, said that “not exonerate” isn’t found in any federal law or Justice Department guideline. The federal prosecutors either charge someone or they stay silent, he said.

Donald Trump is not above the law,” the East Texas Republican said. “He’s not. But he damn sure or shouldn’t be below the law.”

Mr. Mueller acknowledged that his use of the word “exonerate” was a special case for Mr. Trump.

In his Fox News interview on Sunday, Mr. Ratcliffe made clear that he wants a robust Durham investigation. He said it is clear that people lied to Congress.

On replacing Coats

Glenn R. Simpson, co-founder of the opposition research firm Fusion GPS that orchestrated and distributed the Steele dossier, testified that he didn’t meet with the Justice Department‘s Bruce Ohr until after the Nov. 8, 2016, election.

But Mr. Ohr, then an associate deputy attorney general and dossier conduit, testified that they had met before Nov. 8.

“One of them is not telling the truth,” Mr. Ratcliffe said. “We need a process to identify that.”

Mr. Ratcliffe said former FBI Director James B. Comey “leaked confidential conversations with the president to a reporter.”

“Did that include classified information?” he asked.

When Mr. Ohr appeared before a joint House task force in August 2018, Mr. Ratcliffe interrogated him on Mr. Comey’s knowledge of the dossier.

Mr. Ohr was Fusion GPS’s main messenger for carrying Mr. Steele’s allegations to the Obama administration. Beginning in August, he briefed Deputy Director Andrew McCabe; agent Peter Strzok, who started the Trump investigation; FBI counsel Lisa Page; and Andrew Weissmann. Mr. Weissmann, a Democratic Party donor, headed the Justice Department‘s fraud division and later joined Mr. Mueller‘s staff.

The Ohr contacts meant that the Justice Department‘s power centers were awash in anti-Trump conspiracy allegations that turned out to be untrue. How exactly the dossier affected their decision-making is a question Mr. Durham may answer.

Democrats don’t like the idea of a partisan Trump ally replacing Mr. Coats, a calm and analytical former senator from Indiana.

Dan Coats served ably & with deep integrity,” tweeted John O. Brennan, President Barack Obama’s White House aide and CIA director. “Ratcliffe showed abject subservience to Trump in Mueller hearings. The women & men in the Intelligence Community deserve a leader like Coats who puts nation first; not a servile Trump loyalist like Ratcliffe.”

Republicans say it is Mr. Brennan who has proved to be a partisan intelligence director. On MSNBC, he repeatedly accused Mr. Trump of being in cahoots with the Kremlin. He also predicted multiple indictments of Trump allies in a Russian conspiracy.

The Mueller report contains no information about Mr. Trump being in a relationship with the Kremlin. No Trump associate was charged in a conspiracy. Mr. Brennan later said he must have been misinformed.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, opposes Mr. Ratcliffe for confirmation.

“The director of national intelligence is supposed to be one of the least partisan members of the president’s Cabinet,” Mr. Schumer said. “It would be a grave mistake for the Senate to elevate this partisan warrior, Rep. Ratcliffe, to that position.”

After Mr. Trump‘s May order, Mr. Coats felt compelled to issue an unenthusiastic response: “As part of that process, I am confident that the Attorney General will work with the IC in accordance with the long-established standards to protect highly-sensitive classified information that, if publicly released, would put our national security at risk,” he said.

Of particular interest is whether transcripts exist of FBI informants speaking with Trump aides in an attempt to determine if they would admit to working with Russia.

The FBI‘s Mr. Strzok began the investigation on July 31, 2016, based on Trump campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos’ remark to the Australian ambassador in London that he heard Moscow might own Mrs. Clinton’s emails. The FBI had assigned at least two informants to Mr. Papadopoulos.

Also of interest are any internal memos that led Mr. Obama’s intelligence chiefs to conclude in January 2017 that Russia hacked computers and trolled social media to help candidate Trump.

Mr. Trump‘s former campaign advisers, who believed they were sullied by Democrats and Mr. Mueller for innocent behavior, say Mr. Ratcliffe is someone who will help find the truth.

“As the shady origins of Trump-Russia are increasingly scrutinized, it’s important to have a director of national intelligence who is unafraid of exposing criminal behavior, even if at the highest levels of government,” J.D. Gordon, a former Pentagon spokesman and campaign adviser, told The Times.

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