Who is Kash Patel? Defense secy Chris Miller's chief of staff has a murky history 'trafficking deep state conspiracies'
The firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper by President Trump, who has been replaced by Christopher Miller, has been followed by a slew of resignations of top officials overseeing policy, intelligence and the defense secretary’s staff. These resignations and replacements include James Anderson, acting undersecretary for policy, replaced by the controversial Anthony Tata. Joseph Kernan, the undersecretary for intelligence, was replaced by Ezra Cohen-Watnick. Also, Miller brought in his own chief of staff, Kash Patel, to replace Jen Stewart. These new appointees, according to an article by Politico, "are fiercely loyal to Trump and have trafficked in 'deep state' conspiracy theories".
Who is Kash Patel?
Kashyap "Kash" Patel, who replaced Jen Stewart, is a member of the National Security Council (NSC). Earlier, Patel was a staffer for Republican Devin Nunes who has been the Representative for California's 22nd congressional district since 2003 and was Chair of the House Intelligence Committee from 2015 to 2019. According to multiple reports, Nunes worked to discredit the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential links between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin and was investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics for improperly disclosing classified information to the public. Nunes has denied these allegations.
During the first years of the Trump administration, Patel was a national security aide for the House Intelligence Committee under Nunes. He was also the key author of the controversial Nunes memo which was central to the Republican narrative that FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) officials inappropriately obtained FISA warrants for several of Trump campaign staffers, including Carter Page (petroleum industry consultant and a former foreign-policy adviser to Trump). His name surfaced in the Trump–Ukraine scandal; a scandal involving efforts by Trump to coerce Ukraine and other foreign countries into providing damaging narratives about Joe Biden as well as misinformation relating to Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections.
According to the Washington Post and New York Times, Trump enlisted surrogates within and outside his official administration, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr, to pressure Ukraine and other foreign governments to cooperate in supporting conspiracy theories concerning American politics.
The Nunes memo was deemed biased consisting of "cherry-picked facts". His role in the Trump–Ukraine scandal, which Patel has vehemently denied, surfaced after he was hired as a staffer for Trump's NSC. Within months, it was suspected that Patel had assumed the role of an additional independent back channel for the president, which was seen as potentially detrimental to American policy in Ukraine. During NSC meetings, Patel took few notes and was underqualified for his portfolio, as reported by the New York Times and Politico. The latter also reported that Patel's position was actually created specifically for him.
Red flags were raised when Trump referred to Patel as "one of his top Ukraine policy specialists" and wished "to discuss related documents with him". Patel's actual assignment, as a staffer of NSC, was to counter-terrorism issues rather than Ukraine. He was thought to have operated independently of Giuliani's irregular, informal channel. Fiona Hill – a former official at the NSC specializing in Russian and European affairs and a witness in the November 2019 House hearings regarding the impeachment of President Trump – told investigators that "Patel was improperly becoming involved in Ukraine policy and was sending information to Mr. Trump."
On December 3, 2019, the House Intelligence Committee's report included phone records of a 25-minute phone call between Patel and Giuliani from May 10, 2019. The call occurred after Giuliani and Patel attempted to call each other for several hours, and less than an hour after a call between Giuliani and Kurt Volker (former US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations). In a statement to CBS News, Patel denied being part of Giuliani's Ukraine back-channel saying he was "never a back channel to President Trump on Ukraine matters, at all, ever", and that his call with Giuliani was "personal".
After Richard Grenell was named acting director of national intelligence in February 2020, Patel was added as a senior adviser. He also traveled to Syria marking the first time in over a decade that a high-level US official met with the Syrian government. The Obama administration has severed diplomatic relations with Syria in 2012. Patel went to Damascus to secure the release of at least two US nationals believed to be held by Assad’s government, including freelance journalist Austin Tice and Syrian-American therapist Majd Kamalmaz.