The former top US spy chief believes that the FBI came up short during its raid on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate early last month.
John Ratcliffe, a former US congressman from Texas whom Trump tapped to serve as director of national intelligence, told Fox News last week that the bureau “didn’t find what they were looking” for, based on his observations.
“I was a former federal prosecutor, United States attorney. Let me tell you what this is about. Good prosecutors with good cases play it straight. They don’t need to play games,” Ratcliffe said, in reference to Justice Department officials. “They don’t need to shop for judges, they don’t need to leak intelligence that may or may not exist.”
The Justice Department’s arguments against having a federal court appoint a special master to review allegedly classified documents “tells you that the government didn’t find what they were looking for,” Ratcliffe continued.
“There weren’t nuclear secrets” at Trump’s estate, he noted further, “and they’re trying to justify what they’ve done. They’re not playing it straight before the American people. I think that that’s going to play out.”
The Epoch Times noted further that Ratcliffe did not go into specific evidence regarding his claims, however.
The outlet noted further:
Since the Aug. 8 raid on Mar-a-Lago, neither the DOJ nor the FBI has revealed what materials agents were trying to find. A heavily redacted affidavit used to obtain the search warrant last week provided few details, but it said prosecutors believed there were allegedly classified documents being kept in Trump’s Florida residence.
The former president and some former White House aides say that Trump had a standing order to declassify any materials that left the Oval Office and were taken to Mar-a-Lago.
Ratcliffe’s comments came ahead of a federal judge’s ruling this week, granting Trump’s request for a special master.
US District Judge from the Southern District of Florida Judge Aileen M. Cannon on Monday ordered that an independent third-party be appointed to “review the seized property, manage assertions of privilege and make recommendations thereon, and evaluate claims for return of property.”
“The Court hereby authorizes the appointment of a special master to review the seized property for personal items and documents and potentially privileged material subject to claims of attorney- client and/or executive privilege,” the order states.
“Furthermore, in natural conjunction with that appointment, and consistent with the value and sequence of special master procedures, the Court also temporarily enjoins the Government from reviewing and using the seized materials for investigative purposes pending completion of the special master’s review or further Court order,” it adds.
The order, though, “shall not impede the classification review and/or intelligence assessment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (“ODNI”) as described in the Government’s Notice of Receipt of Preliminary Order.”
Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor himself, told Fox News on Monday that Cannon’s ruling was “potentially explosive” if it led to an executive privilege claim.
“It’s a big win for the Trump team and a potentially explosive ruling if it holds. I would imagine it’s important enough that the government will appeal this immediately,” he said on “Fox News Live.”
“In a nutshell, what happened here is the Justice Department assumed that Trump only had attorney-client privilege, that he did not have executive privilege, or at least to the limited extent that as a former president he maintains executive privilege, it can’t be asserted against the executive branch itself,” the former prosecutor said.
“It’s one thing for the government to have that theory, I think it actually may be a sound theory. The problem is it’s not 100% settled, so I thought it was incumbent on them to get a ruling from the court on that question before they hauled off did what they did, which was have the privilege team go through all the seized documents assuming that Trump only had attorney-client privilege and then allowing all of the potentially executive privileged documents to go to the prosecution team,” he said.
“If it turned out they are privileged, that could taint the prosecutors who reviewed them and it could also taint their investigation because they are now conducting an investigation,” he argued.
“They got these documents two weeks ago, and they have had these documents, the prosecution team has, for about a week. So they have been merrily conducting their investigation with the agents assuming all the documents were appropriate for the investigation. Now the judge is saying hold everything, he may have executive privilege,” he said.