Stunning new details of Col. Alexander Vindman’s testimony to the House impeachment inquiry yesterday just revealed a direct link between the Ukraine scandal and House Republicans, inevitably via the intelligence committee ranking member and infamous Trump toady Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).
Col. Vindman serves on the National Security Council (NSC) as its Ukraine subject matter expert, and after returning from a trip to Kyiv with Energy Secretary Rick Perry to meet that country’s newly elected President Zelensky this past May, he was prepared to report to the President that the new leader would be a solid reformer.
However, NSC staff diverted the Colonel from meeting with Trump, and the reasons why quickly became clear.
Former House Intelligence Committee Counsel Kashyap Patel, who served as an aide to Rep. Nunes (R-CA) and has no experience or expertise in Ukrainian affairs, was hired by the White House in February and then apparently inserted himself as an imposter NSC expert, taking Col. Vindman’s role. Politico reports:
The decorated Army officer who testified to House investigators on Tuesday told lawmakers that a close associate of Republican Rep. Devin Nunes “misrepresented” himself to President Donald Trump in an effort to involve himself further in Ukraine policy, according to two people familiar with his closed-door deposition.
It helps explain why the president tweeted on Tuesday that he’d never met Vindman despite his clear interest in Ukraine — senior officials have said that Trump directed them to consult with his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on matters of Ukraine policy.
And Vindman’s exclusion sheds even more light on the unusual steps top NSC officials were taking as early as May to avoid angering or annoying Trump on Ukraine issues — and the unusual level of access Patel had to the president.
The inclusion of Kashyap Patel to all of Trump’s best people involved in his quid pro quo is disturbing news. Patel’s illustrious legal career includes getting caught “selling his man meat” for charity until he had to drop out of the event because a local blogger caught him practicing law as a federal public defender in Miami without a license. Undeterred, he got a job at the Department of Justice which led to a judge famously issuing an “Order on Ineptitude” about Patel, who then became an aid to the California Republican who chaired the House Intelligence Committee and led the obstruction of the Mueller probe until the 2018 midterm blue wave.
This isn’t the first time Kashyap Patel has made an infamous appearance in Trump’s propaganda machine; he’s the attorney who drafted Rep. Nunes’ infamous propaganda memo at the House Intel Committee, which he then very publicly pushed the White House to declassify.
The “Nunes memo” was a dud, but it became a key part of President Trump’s war with the Justice Department last year, which in turn led him to release top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance warrant against a former Trump campaign aide who traveled to Russia with campaign permission. That FISA warrant has become a cornerstone of GOP propaganda since then.
It was obvious that yesterday’s testimony by the decorated Iraq-veteran officer’s testimony was crucial, owing to his being the first actual participant in Trump’s July 25th “I need a favor” phone call to Ukrainian President Zelensky to testify.
But Colonel Vindman’s sworn statements to the impeachment inquiry explain that when Patel departed Congress for the White House, he somehow stepped into the chain of command on the National Security Council ahead of a sworn military officer just to prevent conflict with President Trump.
“Vindman also testified that he was told Patel had been circumventing normal NSC process to get negative material about Ukraine in front of the president, feeding Trump’s belief that Ukraine was brimming with corruption and had interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Democrats.
It’s still not clear what materials Patel was giving Trump, or where he was getting them. But he was not interacting with Ukraine experts at the State Department and Pentagon on the issue, and never had a conversation with Vindman, the NSC’s director for Ukraine, about Ukraine — or about anything for that matter, Vindman testified.”
For months, the President personally ran a shadow foreign policy with his lawyer friend Rudy Giuliani and hotelier turned EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland with the assistance of the Vice President, Energy Secretary and Secretary of State.
During that entire time, the Colonel kept his complaints within the chain of command and informed Trump’s former National Security Advisor (NSA) John Bolton, as well as former NSC Russia expert Fiona Hill, who already testified to the impeachment inquiry two weeks ago, saying that the President believed Patel was America’s point person on Ukraine affairs.
It’s becoming obvious that the House impeachment investigators have zeroed in on former NSA Bolton as a key witness in their inquiry, and he is reportedly negotiating to appear in front of the joint committees.
Today’s disclosures about Col. Vindman’s testimony implicating the incompetent former GOP Congressman’s aide ties him to the quid pro quo scandal which touched off an impeachment inquiry give a whole new context last week’s incursion by House Republicans into a SCIF, to obstruct a deposition.
Now, it appears that House Republicans might not just have been responding to the President’s cry for help, but opens up the possibility that some of them see defending Trump as defending themselves, and their involvement in the plot to extort a political investigation into Democrats for the 2020 election.
Grant Stern is the Executive Editor of Occupy Democrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition