Trump spy chief on classified documents: ‘Virtually impossible to prosecute’
By Ryan King
Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe argued that it is “virtually impossible” to prosecute his onetime boss, former President Donald Trump, for alleged mishandling of classified material.
While chiding the FBI for “acting as the muscle” of the Democrats, the Trump-era spy chief hearkened back to Hillary Clinton’s email situation and surmised that Trump possessed the “ultimate declassification authority,” shielding him from liability.
“I thought, surely this is not about classified documents and the president being in possession of those. It has to be more than that because the Department of Justice and the FBI have already set a standard that makes it virtually impossible to prosecute a case like that,” Ratcliffe told Fox Business’s Larry Kudlow, who is another former Trump administration official.
Although no president has ever been prosecuted for mishandling classified material, some experts dispute the notion that one could suddenly deem something declassified and argue that the president must instead follow a formal process.
“I’ve seen thousands of declassified documents. They’re all marked ‘declassified’ with the date they were declassified,” Richard Immerman, assistant deputy director of national intelligence in the Obama administration, told NBC News.
During a Monday raid, FBI agents carried out a search warrant of Trump’s lavish Mar-a-Lago resort and reportedly retrieved some 20 boxes of material while seeking documents with details about nuclear weapons.
A warrant released to the public Friday revealed that authorities were looking for material retained in violation of three federal laws, including the Espionage Act.
“As people talk about Espionage Act and classified documents and all of that, the standard was set in 2016. Remember the Department of Justice and the FBI took the official position that Hillary Clinton, who was in possession of classified documents … that in possession of that — that wasn’t enough and that being grossly negligent … that’s not enough under the Espionage Act,” Ratcliffe continued.
“The Department of Justice and FBI said six years ago, you gotta be able to prove intent. He’s already denied that he had the intent to do it,” he added.
During the 2016 campaign, Clinton faced controversy after it was revealed that she conducted government work as secretary of state, including the handling of classified information, on a private email server, per the New York Times. Although Clinton was criticized for the handling of her emails, she was not charged.
Ratcliffe, a former Republican congressman from Texas, served as Trump’s DNI from May 2020 until 2021. He argued that the FBI does not have “clean hands” and lamented that people “have lost faith and trust” in institutions such as the FBI and Justice Department.
“The American people are so upset and so outraged is that for the last six years … what they’ve seen from the FBI and the Department of Justice is essentially the FBI acting as the muscle or the strong arm of the Democratic Party. It’s partisanship, you know, as opposed to just abuse of power,” he said. “Always some explanation or excuse for why Donald Trump would be treated differently or Republicans would be targeted.”