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Fear behind fury: As DNI, Ratcliffe could expose FISA files that Russiagaters hope stay buried

Fear behind fury: As DNI, Ratcliffe could expose FISA files that Russiagaters hope stay buried
The prospect of John Ratcliffe as the new US director of national intelligence has Democrats and the media alarmed far more so than usual, perhaps because as DNI he could expose things they would prefer to stay hidden.

US President Donald Trump announced on Saturday that he would nominate Congressman Ratcliffe (R-Texas) to head the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), to replace Daniel Coats after he leaves on August 15. Ratcliffe has accepted Trump’s nomination, and now faces the Senate confirmation process. 

There is some confusion as to who will serve as acting director; Trump said he will appoint someone “soon” but critics say the 2004 law establishing the office specifically says the principal deputy – in this case, CIA veteran Sue Gordon – shall be in charge.

Also on rt.com Trump taps Rep. John Ratcliffe to replace Dan Coats as Director of National Intelligence

It has become the new normal that every Trump nomination is met by howls of outrage from both Democrats and the mainstream media. They seem to be alarmed by Ratcliffe far more than usual, however. Amazingly, despite the complete catastrophe that ‘Russiagate’ has turned into for the Democrats, liberal pundits are once again arguing that this somehow helps Moscow. Here’s Atlantic writer Adam Serwer claiming Coats is being replaced because he was trying to “prevent foreign attacks on American elections.”

CNN analyst Juliette Kayyem argued along the same lines, claiming that Trump’s goal is to “stop any attempts to thwart Russian influence in 2020.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) put forth another talking point that quickly became popular: that Ratcliffe is a “Trump loyalist.” The implication is clear: the DNI ought to have a “higher loyalty” – to borrow the title of ousted FBI chief Jim Comey’s self-serving book – not to the elected president, but to the unelected bureaucracy and the secret world of spies.

Presumably, that “higher” loyalty led Comey, former DNI James Clapper, and former CIA Director John Brennan to claim that Russia “hacked our democracy” in 2016 and target Trump’s campaign by spying on Carter Page and entrapping George Papadopoulos. Coats has covered for them so far, but Ratcliffe is unlikely to – which certainly explains why Brennan would be nervous.

Nominating Coats – an establishment Republican and longtime Russia hawk – may have made sense in February 2017, but he has since repeatedly demonstrated that his loyalty was more to the establishment than to the White House. 

You may recall that the day after Trump’s attempt to mend relations with Russia at the Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin, the DNI released a statement doubling down on the Clapper-Comey-Brennan “assessment” blaming Russia for election meddling. His posture even led to MSNBC speculating he might have been the author of the notorious “lodestar” New York Times op-ed, penned by an anonymous executive branch official claiming to be a member of the anti-Trump “resistance” on the inside. Coats has denied that claim, however.

Amid the outrage about Ratcliffe’s nomination, few remembered that the Texas congressman was one of the two Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee who actually saw the classified FISA documents that were used to get a warrant for spying on the Trump campaign. He did so as part of the House Intelligence Committee probe into the entire unsavory affair, back in late 2017, which resulted in the ‘Nunes Memo’ in February 2018.

The other, former South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy, was so spooked by what he saw that he decided not to seek re-election and retreated into a career of a Fox News pundit. Ratcliffe, by contrast, went on to take a hard line on the Mueller investigation, hammering the special counsel in last week’s hearings. 

Also on rt.com ‘You managed to violate every principle!’ – Republican Rep. unloads on Mueller

Last September, Trump ordered the ODNI and the DOJ to declassify the Page FISA application, the related FBI files, “all text messages relating to the Russia investigation,” and interviews of a DOJ official linked to Fusion GPS, the firm that produced the so-called ‘Steele dossier’.

Within 48 hours, Trump said he would let the attorney general and DNI review those files before making them public, out of concern for allies, and intelligence sources and methods. Precisely nothing has happened since, suggesting that Coats was slow-walking the process. 

With the Russiagate conspiracy now in shambles and Ratcliffe poised to blow the lid on the ‘Spygate’ scandal that spawned it, no wonder the people involved and their partisan supporters are more than a little nervous.

By Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic is a Serbian-American journalist and political commentator, working at RT since 2015

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