The U.S. government possessed a wealth of intelligence showing bogus allegations of collusion between former President Donald Trump and Russia, former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said, referring to his time overseeing the nation’s spy apparatus.
Now special counsel John Durham is “revealing some of the details” of what Ratcliffe claims was a plan by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 team and their associates to sell “a false narrative” to the FBI and CIA, possibly leading to conspiracy charges in the politically charged inquiry.
“What I saw, that I had never seen as a member of Congress, was we have all kinds of intelligence about fake Russia collusion. That Hillary Clinton had created or had a campaign plan to create fake Russian allegations to smear Donald Trump with things about Russia that weren’t true,” Ratcliffe said during an interview on Fox News’s Life, Liberty & Levin, which aired Sunday evening.
Ratcliffe, a former Republican congressman from Texas who served as overseer of the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies in the latter part of the Trump administration, declassified last fall two heavily redacted Russia-related documents, including handwritten notes from former CIA Director John Brennan showing he briefed then-President Barack Obama in 2016 on an unverified Russian intelligence report. The report claimed Clinton planned in July 2016 on tying then-candidate Trump to Russia’s hack of the Democratic National Committee to distract from the controversy surrounding her improper use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state.
Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton, said at the time the claims were “baseless bulls***.” Brennan also criticized Ratcliffe for engaging in “selective declassification of information that clearly is designed to advance the political interests of Donald Trump and Republicans who are aligned with him.” The former CIA director also stressed that “if, in fact, what the Russians were alleging, that Hillary was trying to highlight the reported connections between Trump and the Russians, if, in fact, that was accurate, and that’s a big if, there is nothing at all illegal about that.”
Ratcliffe acknowledged campaigns often engage in dirty tricks, but he argued what Durham is examining may reach beyond underhanded political tactics into the realm of illegal activity. He referred to the case against cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussmann, who is accused of falsely telling the top FBI lawyer he was not representing any clients when acting on behalf of a technology executive and Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign during a September 2016 meeting in which data and research papers with possible links between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa Bank were discussed. Sussmann, who has pleaded not guilty, also has acknowledged giving similar information in February 2017 to another government agency, believed to be the CIA.
Durham revealed last week that he has evidence that Sussmann’s technology client, known to be former Neustar executive Rodney Joffe, “exploited” domain name system internet traffic at Trump Tower, Trump’s Central Park West apartment building, and “the Executive Office of the President of the United States” — which includes the White House.
“What is illegal is that when you create a false narrative and then you take it to the FBI and the CIA and peddle it as real, hoping to authenticate it by opening an investigation, that’s all sorts of criminal activity,” Ratcliffe told host Mark Levin. “It starts with lying to federal agents, for which Michael Sussmann and others have been charged, 18 US Code § 1001 counts, but it goes all the way up to conspiracy, possibly even to racketeering, to RICO charges.”
After a filing in the Sussmann case led to a tempest of right-wing claims that her 2016 campaign was complicit in an effort to spy on Trump, Clinton dismissed during a speech last week what she characterized as “conspiracy theories” meant to distract from scandals embroiling Trump. Durham stood by the snooping evidence he has presented, saying if “third parties or members of the media have overstated, understated, or otherwise misinterpreted facts contained in the government’s motion, that does not in any way undermine the valid reasons for the government’s inclusion of this information.”
Michael Horowitz, the inspector general of the Justice Department, said in a 2019 report the FBI “concluded by early February 2017 that there were no such links” between Trump and Alfa Bank. When asked about the Alfa Bank claims during House testimony in 2019, special counsel Robert Mueller said, “My belief at this point is that it’s not true.” A bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report released in 2020 said investigators did not find “covert communications between Alfa Bank and Trump Organization personnel.”
Mueller, who was appointed special counsel in 2017, concluded his investigation in 2019. He issued a report that said the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election in a “sweeping and systematic fashion,” and his special counsel team “identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign.” However, Mueller’s investigators “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” his report said.
In his interview with Levin, Ratcliffe said he “shared a lot of intelligence” with Durham, noting it is “not just what’s been declassified.” Ratcliffe announced in October that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence had given nearly 1,000 pages of materials to the Justice Department in response to the special counsel’s document requests.
Offering insight into what he told Durham when delivering this information, including that investigators in the government were aware of Clinton-linked “fake Russia collusion allegations,” Ratcliffe said the message he imparted to the special counsel was, “look, this just isn’t right, this doesn’t add up, all sorts of people knew about this and didn’t do anything about it.” Ratcliffe, who also served time as a federal prosecutor, added: “I think that’s what he’s looking at. And, you know, sometimes it takes a long time to put conspiracy allegations together over time, and I expect that that’s what he’s doing.”
Source: Deputy News Editor Daniel Chaitin and Justice Department Reporter Jerry Dunleavy, www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/justice/ratcliffe-says-all-kinds-of-intelligence-showed-fake-russia-collusion