Former White House Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said Sunday that the FBI took documents from Donald Trump’s Florida Mar-a-Lago home that had questionable classification levels.
“The FBI took 11,000 documents from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, and they claim that there are reports of hundreds of documents that have classified markings,” Ratcliffe said in an interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”
Ratcliffe noted that he is unsure if any of the documents include “Russia-gate or Steele reporting documents” but that if they do, “there’s a question of whether or not they’re marked top secret, whether they are top secret.”
Former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele’s infamous “Steele dossier” was used to obtain a spy warrant on members of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign. The widely discredited dossier was paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
“I saw hundreds, if not thousands, of documents related to Christopher Steele, and the Steele reporting … things like the Alpha Bank connections that were in the Steele dossier, all of these things were make-believe but were marked ‘top secret,'” said Ratcliffe. “All of these things were no more top secret than your children’s creative writing assignments for their homework.”
“So there’s an issue of classification of those documents, they’re going to have to look at documents marked ‘top secret’ to determine whether or not there really was any national security information in there of any value,” Ratcliffe said. “I can tell you from personal experience that many of those Russia-gate documents were not top secret, although they were marked that way.”
Ratcliffe’s comments come after U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon appointed senior Judge Raymond Dearie as a “special master” to review documents the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago in August.
Dearie, 79, was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 to the federal bench in Brooklyn, New York. He retired in 2011 and now serves as a semi-retired senior judge. He previously served in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court between 2011 and 2019.
Part of Dearie’s duties as a “special master” will be to determine whether any materials are protected by executive privilege or attorney-client privilege and should thus be shielded from the DOJ probe.
‘Taken Advantage of By FBI’
When asked on Sunday for his thoughts regarding Dearie’s appointment as a special master, Ratcliffe said he believes he’s a good choice, noting that Dearie has been “taken advantage of” by the FBI before and will likely “not take the DOJ and FBI assertions at face value and will look at these documents.”
During his time in the intelligence surveillance court, Dearie signed off on warrants that the FBI used to surveil Carter Page, a former associate of Trump, during its investigation into now disproved allegations that the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia.
Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith later admitted to doctoring an email from the CIA that was used to support the surveillance warrants.
Ratcliffe on Sunday also cited one document that he himself had declassified “on his way out the door,” which related to Igor Danchenko, a Russian national who lives in the United States and who was the primary sub-source for the Steele dossier.
Danchenko is scheduled to be tried in October on five counts of lying to the FBI.
“He is facing trial next month because he lied repeatedly to the FBI,” said Ratcliffe. “In January 2017 he admitted to the FBI that much of what was in the Steele reporting was just made up in conversation over beers with friends at a bar or word-of-mouth hearsay.”
“He didn’t know whether any of the information in the Steele dossier was accurate and it was put together at the request of Hillary Clinton and her campaign.”
Ratcliffe said the document he declassified was “an annex to the intelligence community assessment that then-FBI Director James Comey insisted on including and reporting to the American people claiming that all the information in the Steele dossier should be included in the investigation when they knew from their conversations with Danchenko that it was all false.”
“So this is an example of one of many documents that were initially marked as ‘top secret’ and ‘classified’ but that was all a bunch of garbage,” he said.