Facing criticism over his scant intelligence community experience, President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace Dan Coats as director of national intelligence – Texas Rep John Ratcliffe – has touted his experience as a federal prosecutor working on terrorism cases as a qualification to become the nation’s spy chief, but there appears to be little evidence to back up that claim.
“As a US Attorney and federal terrorism prosecutor, Ratcliffe put terrorists in prison,” his congressional website says.
But when asked Ratcliffe’s office didn’t provide names of any terrorism suspects sent to prison as a result of his prosecutorial work.
“Department of Justice records will confirm that as both Chief of Anti-Terrorism and National Security for the Eastern District of Texas from 2004-2008, John Ratcliffe opened, managed and supervised numerous domestic and international terrorism related cases,” a spokeswoman for Ratcliffe said.
CNN’s initial search of court records did not find any terrorism cases he was listed as prosecuting.
The Justice Department has not so far commented.
In addition, Ratcliffe’s office cited his association with a terrorism-related case that was brought by federal prosecutors in another Texas district. That case involved the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development and five former leaders who were accused of funneling money to the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The first time the case went to trial, it ended with a hung jury.
Ratcliffe’s spokeswoman said in a statement: “Shortly following a declared mistrial in United States v. Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, et al. in the Northern District of Texas on October 22, 2007, at the request of the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, a Justice Department Order appointed U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas John Ratcliffe to investigate issues related to the outcome of the Holy Land case. Because the investigation did not result in any charges, it would not be in accordance with Department of Justice policies to make further details public.”
Matthew Levitt, a counterterrorism analyst at the Washington Institute and former FBI intelligence analyst, was an expert for the government. He says he was “intimately involved” in the Holy Land case and doesn’t recall Ratcliffe having any role.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met Ratcliffe and I certainly didn’t associate his name with this,” Levitt says.
“What seems clear is that he has made broad brush descriptions of his role in this.”
For Trump, the qualification that counts the most may not be Ratcliffe’s limited work in national security – he joined the House intelligence Committee this year.
The President said he spoke to Ratcliffe before the committee heard testimony from former special counsel Robert Mueller.
At that hearing, Ratcliffe stood out for his scolding of Mueller, saying that the special counsel violated Justice Department norms in writing Vol. 2 of the report on obstruction of justice. “You managed to violate every principle and the most sacred of traditions about prosecutors not offering extra prosecutorial analysis,” Ratcliffe said.