- The Indian American “who flew largely beneath the radar during the Trump administration,” rose from an obscure Hill staffer to become one of the most powerful players in the national security apparatus.
Kash Patel, the former GOP congressional aide and Trump loyalist, is the target of a federal investigation, according to The Washington Post. In the report, David Ignatius, a Post columnist and a top rated reporter on national security affairs, has quoted two sources familiar with the probe who confirmed that Patel is being investigated for unauthorized disclosures of classified information. The investigation was sparked by a complaint made by an intelligence agency, according to Ignatius.
The report is significant as Ignatius seems to imply that there could be more than what meets the eye. Even more disturbing is that Ignatius poses a hypothetical question whether Patel was the key figure in Trump’s scheme to hold on to power by means more diabolical than suspected. “Was there a systematic plan, for example, to gain control of the nation’s intelligence and military command centers as part of Trump’s effort to retain the presidency, despite his loss in the November 2020 election,” Ignatius wonders. While he does not in any way conclude that there is a probability of an investigation, Ignatius nevertheless lays out a series of events that led up to his hypothesis.
Ignatius says Patel, now 41, “appeared so frequently, in so many incarnations, that he was almost a ‘Zelig’ figure in Trump’s confrontation against what he imagined as the deep state.” Patel, “flew largely beneath the radar during the Trump administration,” and in the span of four years, “rose from an obscure Hill staffer to become one of the most powerful players in the national security apparatus,” Ignatius claims. He is known to have repeatedly pressed intelligence agencies to release secrets that, in his view, showed that the president was being persecuted unfairly by critics. “The saga of his battles with the intelligence bureaucracy shows how the last administration empowered its lieutenants to challenge what it saw as the deep state,” Ignatius says.
In his detailed analysis, Ignatius traces Patel’s career graph during the Trump administration and his ascent on the power spectrum. At the start of the Trump administration, Patel was senior counsel for Rep. Devin Nunes when the California Republican chaired the House Intelligence Committee in 2017 and 2018. During that time Patel “emerged as a leading critic of the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into the Trump campaign’s alleged links to Russia,” Ignatius says. Patel then joined Trump’s National Security Council staff as senior director for counterterrorism. In 2020, he was a senior adviser to acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell and his successor, John Ratcliffe, helping lead their efforts to remove senior career intelligence officers.
Patel played “a very large role” in Nunes’ attempt to undermine the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Ignatius 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.
Patel’s role as an investigator for Nunes is highlighted in “The Plot Against the President: The True Story of How Congressman Devin Nunes Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal in U.S. History,” by Lee Smith, a conservative journalist. “The book asserts without evidence that the so-called deep state of career government bureaucrats and members of the news media embarked on a grand scheme to thwart Mr. Trump from being president,” the New York Times reported.
Patel has previously been in the crosshairs of officials investigating President 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.
Patel later denied ever discussing Ukraine with the president. “A number of media outlets have falsely reported that, as senior director for counterterrorism on the National Security Council, I have communicated with President Trump regarding Ukraine,” Patel told Axios at the time.” At no time have I ever communicated with the president on any matters involving Ukraine. Any reporting to the contrary, and any testimony provided to Congress, is simply false, and any current or former staff who suggest I have raised or discussed Ukraine matters with President Trump, are similarly misinformed or spreading outright falsehoods.”
“Patel’s most prominent role was his final job, as chief of staff for acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller in the administration’s last two months,” the report says. In that position, he challenged the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, and very nearly became acting director of the CIA himself. In December, Trump briefly tried to remove Haspel from the CIA and replace her with Patel. Haspel’s apparent crime was that for months she had been resisting efforts by Trump and Patel to declassify the information he had gathered for Nunes back in the 2018 report. Patel told RealClearInvestigations that Haspel had personally “thwarted” this push for disclosure of the report he had prepared for Nunes. “The CIA has possession of it, and POTUS chose not to put it out,” Patel said.
Ignatius notes that “as with so many other still-mysterious aspects of the Trump presidency, there’s a riddle at the center of Patel’s many activities. Beyond the basic goal of advancing Trump’s personal agenda, was there a larger mission? Was there a systematic plan, for example, to gain control of the nation’s intelligence and military command centers as part of Trump’s effort to retain the presidency, despite his loss in the November 2020 election? Or was this a more capricious campaign driven by Trump’s personal pique and score-settling without a clear strategy?”
Patel’s rise in the administration and possible new appointments were mentioned in a Dec. 26, 2020 opinion piece in the Washington Post, also by columnist David Ignatius. Warning that the country “will be in the danger zone until the formal certification of Joe Biden’s election victory on Jan. 6, because potential domestic and foreign turmoil could give President Trump an excuse to cling to power,” he speculated that “the Pentagon would be the locus of any such action,” due to “some unusual recent moves” which suggest “pro-Trump officials might be mobilizing to secure levers of power.” Citing Fox News correspondent Jennifer Griffin, he mentioned Patel’s “abrupt” return home from an Asia trip in early December. “Patel didn’t explain, but in mid-December Trump discussed with colleagues the possibility that Patel might replace Christopher A. Wray as FBI director,” Ignatius said, quoting an unnamed official “Wray remains in his job,” he said.
Patel, was born and raised in Garden City, New York to parents with Gurajati roots who immigrated from East Africa — who came to the U.S. by way of Canada in 1970. He graduated from the University of Richmond in 2002 with a B.A. in history and criminal justice. He obtained an International Law Certificate from University College London Faculty of Laws in 2004, and his Juris Doctor from Pace University School of Law in 2005.After his schooling in New York and college in Richmond, Virginia, and law school in New York, Kash Patel went to Florida where he was a state public defender for four years and then federal public defender for another four years. From Florida, he moved to Washington, D.C. as a terrorism prosecutor at the Department of Justice. Here he was an international terrorism prosecutor for about three and a half years, and worked on cases all over the world, in America in East Africa as well as in Uganda and Kenya.
While still employed by the Department of Justice, he went as a civilian to join Special Operations Command at the Department of Defense. At the Pentagon, he sat as the Department of Justice’s lawyer with Special Forces people and worked inter-agency collaborative targeting operations around the world. In 2014, Kash joined the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), National Security Division (NSD) – Counter Terrorism Section as a Terrorism Prosecutor. In this important position, he ran a wide range of high-profile counterterrorism prosecutions.
Looking at Patel’s rise in the ranks, Ignatius makes three observations. The first is that “Patel was an important, if largely invisible, operative in Trump’s efforts to control the intelligence community, in an escalating series of moves from 2017 to 2020.” The second is “Trump’s campaign to redirect intelligence agencies, backed by Patel, was thwarted by a group of senior administration officials. And the third, he says “is the most perplexing and, in an odd way, reassuring” – that despite “all the roadblocks these aides put in Trump’s way, he had the authority as commander in chief to do what he wanted in national security – direct agencies to take actions he wanted. Facing resistance from courageous officials who sought to protect the government, Trump in many cases simply backed down.”