- The former Chief of Staff to Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller spoke to the Associated Press about his trip to Damascus last October.
It is a well known fact that Trump loyalist Kashyap “Kash” Patel traveled in October last year to Syria for secret talks with the Assad regime. Patel, then deputy assistant to President Trump and the top White House counterterrorism official, went to Damascus in an effort to negotiate the release of at least two Americans believed to be held by President Bashar al-Assad. One of them is Austin Tice, a journalist captured eight years earlier.
At the time, the release of the Americans seemed like a boon to President Donald Trump months before the November election. However, the effort was unsuccessful.
According to an Associated Press report “the Syrians raised a series of demands that would have fundamentally reshaped Washington’s policy toward Damascus, including the removal of sanctions, the withdrawal of troops from the country and the restoration of normal diplomatic ties.” Additionally, they offered no information on the Americans. “Success would have been bringing the Americans home and we never got there,” Patel told AP in an interview last week.
The meeting was more than a year in the making, Patel told AP, “requiring him to seek help in Lebanon, which still has ties with Assad.”
The AP spoke with Patel as part of its investigation into the October 2020 meeting. Patel also revealed that an “an unidentified U.S. ally in the region offered assistance with cancer treatment for the wife of President Bashar Assad,” to help build goodwill in the region. The Syrian government announced a year before the meeting that she had recovered from breast cancer.
The report said Patel’s revelation “shed light on the sensitive and often secretive efforts to free hostages held by U.S. adversaries, a process that yielded high-profile successes for Trump but also dead ends.”
Although the Biden administration has pledged to make hostage recovery a priority, it has also called out the Syrian government for human rights abuses. It is however unclear about how Biden “will lead the efforts to free Tice and other Americans held around the world, particularly when demands at a negotiating table clash with the White House’s broader foreign policy goals,” the AP report said.
After his return from Syria, he was named Chief of Staff to Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller. He earlier served as a House Intelligence Committee aide, where he gained some notoriety for advancing Republican efforts to challenge the investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 election. He was previously a Justice Department prosecutor under President Barack Obama.
Patel has a long history of being on the wrong side, particularly since 2017, when he was an aide to Rep. David Nunes (R-Calif.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Patel played “a very large role” in Nunes’ attempt to undermine the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, she says. Patel flew to England in the summer of 2108, where he tried unsuccessfully to meet with Christopher Steele, the author of the Steele dossier that purported to detail links between the Trump campaign and Russia. Patel was a primary author of a 2018 memo, released by Nunes over the objections of the FBI, that accused federal investigators of bias against Trump and his team.
He has also been in the crosshairs of officials investigating Trump’s alleged dealings with Ukranian officials. In October 2019, Patel was accused of running a secret backchannel to Trump on Ukraine matters. Trump’s former top Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, told impeachment investigators that she heard Trump thought Patel was his Ukraine director and that he was slipping Ukraine-related “materials” to the president outside of the normal National Security Council (NSC) channels.
“Patel helped investigate the theory that Ukrainians were responsible for spreading information about Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election,” the New York Times reported. “Mr. Trump has returned to the accusation of Ukrainian meddling repeatedly in public and private conversations,” the report said.