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It Looks Like GOP Rep Trump Rewarded with DNI Position Has a Resumé Problem


Rep. John Ratcliffe, the Texas Republican on the House Judiciary Committee who cut Robert Mueller off last week and became President Donald Trump’s pick for Director of National Intelligence (DNI) just days later, appears to have a resumé problem.

In case you missed it, DNI Dan Coats submitted his resignation on Sunday and will be out effective August 15. President Trump announced that Ratcliffe, a former United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, was his nominee to provide oversight to America’s 17 intelligence agencies.

The credentials Ratcliffe has cited in the past mainly had to do with national security. ABC News reported on Tuesday, however, that its investigation into Ratcliffe’s resumé concluded that Ratcliffe “misrepresented his role in an anti-terrorism case that he’s repeatedly cited among his credentials related to national security issues.”

From the story:

The apparent embellishment is related to two anti-terrorism financing trials in a case known as the U.S. v. Holy Land Foundation, the second of which resulted in convictions for several individuals found to have illegally funneled charity money to the U.S.-designated terrorist group Hamas.

What was this “apparent embellishment”?

A Ratcliffe press release from 2015 trumpeted his accomplishments in U.S. v. Holy Land Foundation, in which he claimed to have “convicted individuals who were funneling money to Hamas behind the front of a charitable organization.” A year later, there was was another reference to this case on his campaign website, saying Ratcliffe was appointed as the prosecutor for “U.S. v. Holy Land Foundation, one of the nation’s largest terrorism financing cases.”

The immediate issue raised was that Ratcliffe’s name could not be found in public records related to the two trials. Legal analysts have noted that this was not, on its face, the issue.

“I’m not looking to defend this guy but I’d caution that Chiefs/supervisors of units (as he seems to have been) often have significant roles in cases even if their name isn’t on any document or proceeding & agents & defense counsel may not be aware of the supervisor’s role,” former federal prosecutor and current NBC News/MSNBC legal analyst Mimi Rocah noted.

But as Tuesday’s reporting on this says, it’s one thing to work in a supervisory role and not be publicly credited for it in public documents, it’s another to take credit for jailing terrorists if one wasn’t actually responsible for doing so. While defense attorneys who worked on these cases told ABC News they didn’t remember Ratcliffe being involved, NBC News separately reported a Ratcliffe spox saying that the congressman’s role was to investigate how the first U.S. v. Holy Land Foundation trial ended in mistrial; it does not appear Ratcliffe played a role in the convictions that occurred in the second trial:

A former Justice Department official said Ratcliffe was appointed by Attorney General Michael Mukasey as a special prosecutor to look into allegations, involving a juror and one of the defendants, that surfaced after the first prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation ended in a mistrial.

“Nothing came of it,” the former official said. He said Ratcliffe made no recommendations and was not involved in the retrial that resulted in convictions.

Rachel Stephens, a Ratcliffe spox, told ABC News why the congressman was not listed on public records related to the 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,” Stephens said. “However, 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.”

Importantly, Ratcliffe’s team didn’t address the claim that he “convicted individuals who were funneling money to Hamas behind the front of a charitable organization.”

Needless to say, all of this sparked a lot reaction and Twitter commentary.

Despite the controversy surrounding Ratcliffe’s past claims about his involvement in U.S. v. Holy Land Foundation, some have come forward to defend Ratcliffe’s qualifications for the DNI role. Former Eastern District of Texas U.S. Attorney Matthew Orwig told ABC News that “When you think about it” Ratcliffe has “for the last 15 years […] very much been in the national security arena, first as anti-terrorism coordinator, then as U.S. attorney, then as a congressman on the Judiciary Committee, the Homeland Security Committee and the Intelligence Committee.”

Orwig said that there wasn’t anyone he could think of that would have a better background for the job. Orwig wasn’t the only person to go to bat for Ratcliffe.

Former Acting Attorney General of the United States Matthew Whitaker told Fox News that Ratcliffe is “perfectly qualified to do this role.”

“I think he’s a smart, talented individual,” Whitaker said. “[He’s] straight out of Central Casting for that role.”

As this one Ratcliffe controversy swirls, the congressman is being credited with starting the theory that there was a “secret society” in the FBI that was out to get President Trump.

[Image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.