Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas., asks questions to former special counsel Robert Mueller, as he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his report on Russian election interference, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2019.
Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

Did Trump’s pick for intelligence director misrepresent his record?

It’s alarmingly easy to come up with a list of reasons Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) is a misguided choice to serve as the director of national intelligence. Almost immediately after Donald Trump tapped the far-right congressman for the gig, it became obvious that Ratcliffe lacks the appropriate experience, temperament, judgment, and credibility needed to oversee the entire U.S. intelligence community.

But for now, let’s focus on just one of those.

When the president announced his selection over the weekend, he specifically pointed to Ratcliffe having served as a former U.S. Attorney. It wasn’t immediately obvious why serving as a federal prosecutor would help prepare someone to oversee 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, but in theory, there could be some relevant overlap.

If, for example, a former U.S. Attorney had extensive experience trying counter-terrorism cases, and it required detailed cooperation with intelligence officials and agencies, that could matter when evaluating candidates for a high-ranking intelligence position.

So, did Ratcliffe try counter-terrorism cases and engage in detailed cooperation with intelligence officials? The Republican congressman’s website boasts that he “put terrorists in prison,” but NBC News reported that there is “no evidence he ever prosecuted a terrorism case.”

While he was U.S. attorney in East Texas, Ratcliffe was appointed as a special prosecutor in a terrorism funding case in Dallas, U.S. v. Holy Land Foundation, in which a Muslim charity was found guilty of funneling money to the Palestinian terror group.

A 2015 news release said, “He convicted individuals who were funneling money to Hamas behind the front of a charitable organization.”

But Ratcliffe’s name does not appear in the Holy Land trial record. Asked about that, his spokesman said Ratcliffe was appointed by the attorney general to investigate what went wrong in the first of two trials in the case, which ended in a mistrial.

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.

NBC News’ report added that Ratcliffe “was not involved in the retrial that resulted in convictions.”

ABC News ran a similar report, which concluded that the president’s choice for national intelligence director “misrepresented” his record.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but shouldn’t revelations like these be a deal-breaker? Donald Trump picked a rabid partisan and inexperienced congressman for the nation’s most important intelligence job, and the one relevant part of his resume appears to be false.

If Ratcliffe were an otherwise perfect choice for the position, it’s easy to imagine the White House’s allies urging policymakers to overlook the apparent deception. But how does a guy who claims to have “put terrorists in prison,” despite never having put any terrorists in prison, get to serve as the nation’s intelligence director?