One More High-Profile Position Kash Patel Almost Ascended to Under President Trump
- According to a Politico report, the former president had sought to name Patel as Deputy Director of the FBI.
Trump loyalist Kash Patel came quite close to getting one of the top positions at the FBI. According to a report in Politico, last spring, former president Donald Trump sought to name Patel, the Deputy Director at FBI, when he was planning to oust FBI Director Christopher Wray, and replace him with counterintelligence head William Evanina.
Patel has held a number of senior jobs in the Trump administration. As a top adviser to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Patel had led the lawmaker’s efforts to rebut special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. He later joined the staff of the National Security Council, where he became the senior director for counterterrorism, and then was appointed senior adviser at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. He was named Chief of Staff to Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher C. Miller, a few days after the general election.
Wray and Trump were at loggerheads with each other, particularly when Trump publicly criticized the FBI chief for testifying about Russian interference in the 2016 election. Patel played a major part in the campaigns to discredit investigations into Trump and Russian election interference.
A former Trump administration official told Politico that one reason to place Evanina and Patel at the FBI was to have what the White House considered “trusted people” at those agencies. “Evanina had many of the right credentials,” Politico said. Evanina had spent 24 years in the FBI, including in senior roles. He was later detailed to the CIA as the chief of the agency’s counterintelligence division and counterespionage group before becoming head of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center in 2014, a post he left this past January.
“Installing Patel, however, would be controversial. He was a sharp critic of the intelligence and law enforcement community, especially in regards to its treatment of Trump. And the administration also would have had to do something with the existing deputy director, David Bowdich, who was well-liked and respected among FBI agents.”
According to Politico, Trump’s plan fell apart last April after Attorney General Bill Barr threatened to resign over it, but former Trump aides said he kept fantasizing about Wray’s firing for months after the incident. However, Politico reports that “the April meeting would not be the last time Trump raised the idea of firing Wray, including in conversations with Barr directly.” The president broached the topic once or twice, the report says, “although less aggressively.” As one former Trump official told Politico: “When you thought it had finally quieted down, the next thing you know, he would want to do it again.”
Early this year, Axios reported about Trump’s plan to get Patel to head the CIA to replace CIA Director Gina Haspel had been brewing since December. CIA Director Haspel “threatened to resign” in early December after she became aware of President Trump’s plan to name Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy. Trump had recently named Patel as the chief of staff to Miller, after firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper, six days after the election. Patel’s appointment was shocking, Axios noted, adding that “Patel had no military experience, and was widely seen as a political mercenary bent on punishing the president’s perceived ‘Deep State’ foes.”
According to the Axios report, Trump has been contemplating Haspel’s removal, and “as he grew to distrust her.” He “wanted a loyal ally at the top of the CIA,” the Axios report said. He wanted to “force out” CIA Deputy Director Vaughn Bishop, and replace him with Patel, “and if Haspel quit in protest, then Patel or another loyalist would lead the CIA.” The orchestrated plan almost came to fruition when Haspel had it known that she would quit if Patel was made her deputy director.
However, on Dec. 11, 2020, the day Trump planned to name Patel Deputy Director of the CIA, his plans were thwarted when Haspel decided for the first time in weeks to attend the President’s daily intelligence briefing. After the meeting, when Vice President Mike Pence and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone defended Haspel and counseled against getting rid of Haspel, Trump changed his plans and decided to call off Patel’s appointment. But by then Patel was already informed of his likely job at Langley, and the onus of informing Patel of the order reversal fell on Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
All this came to light on Jan. 15 when MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a Trump supporter, and lawyer Sidney Powell, visited Trump for his final Friday afternoon in the Oval Office on Jan. 15. Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford caught a picture of Lindell’s notes before he entered the West Wing. Among the pillow entrepreneur’s prescriptions for the president was the eye-catching line: “Move Kash Patel to CIA Acting.”