In June of this year, seven weeks before the FBI raided former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate for classified materialsA former Defense Department appointee and Trump loyalist, Kash Patel has promised to retrieve classified documents from the National Archives and post them on his website.
Trump had just released a letter asking the National Archives to grant Patel and conservative journalist John Solomon access to nonpublic administration records, according to reports at the time.
Patel, who under Trump had served as the acting defense secretary’s chief of staff, claimed in a series of interviews that Trump had declassified a trove of “Russiagate documents” in the final days of his administration. But Patel claimed that Trump’s White House lawyer blocked the release of those documents and instead turned them over to the National Archives.
“I never told anyone that because it just happened,” Patel said in a June 22 interview on a pro-Trump podcast. “I’m going to identify every document they’ve blocked from being declassified to the National Archives, and we’re going to start releasing that information next week.”
Patel did not provide a clear explanation of how he would legally or practically obtain the documents.
“The White House attorney and company disobeyed a presidential order and set up a federal government bureaucracy to essentially send the stash to the National Archives, and now this is where it is,” said Patel in a later interview on June 23 on Another Pro. -Trump internet show.
Trump and his allies have for years pushed aggressively to declassify documents related to the FBI’s ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ investigation that looked into alleged links between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia – an investigation that was later released. put under control of Robert Mueller following his appointment as Special Advisor. Patel, who previously served under then-Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), when Nunes was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, claimed nonpublic information provided to Congress undermined the Russia investigation and helped bolster Trump’s claim that the investigation was unfounded.
The day before he left, Trump authorized the declassification of a set of documents related to the Russia investigation. The memorandumpublished in January 2021, acknowledged that “portions of the documents contained in the binder have been kept confidential and have not been released to Congress or the public.”
So, according to Patel, Trump asked him to work on recovering classified documents from the National Archives and then releasing them to the public. “President Trump was like, ‘Who knows these documents better than anyone?’ And I was like, ‘If you want me to go, I’m going,'” Patel said.
“I know what’s” in the Archives, Patel said. “I can’t talk about it yet, but the whole process is going to be: Identify the documents, whether it’s Russiagate, Hunter Biden, impeachment, January 6 – and put them out.”
Erica Knight, spokeswoman for Patel, told ABC News that Patel was acting as a “representative on behalf of President Trump to work with the National Archives to get them to release information.”
“The GSA has its own policies and procedures on how presidential records are to be handled, with which Patel is cooperating fully,” Knight said of the Federal Government General Services Administration, an auxiliary to the National Archives.
Patel’s comments claiming Trump ordered him to retrieve classified documents came amid the growing dispute between the former president and National Archives officials. In June, the National Archives asked the Justice Department to investigate the former president’s handling of White House records, after National Archives officials in January collected 15 boxes of records who had been improperly taken to Trump’s home in violation of the Presidential Records Act.
And while Patel said the former president said to declassify “a mountain of documents”, experts say there are protocols in place to ensure that national security is not compromised when information is declassified – even by the President.
“[Patel] is going after bureaucracy, but it’s that bureaucracy and those protocols that are in place to prevent our national security from being damaged by improper disclosure of national security information,” said John Cohen, a former Department of Homeland Security official who is now an ABC News Contributor.
“I can’t stress how important these protocols are,” Cohen said. “For anyone with clearance, it’s ingrained in your brain that even an inadvertent release of top secret information could seriously harm national security.”
According to Patel, the plan in June was to retrieve the documents from the National Archives and post them on its website “for free”, then to “make a big announcement whenever” a new document was released.
Patel, a former GOP congressional aide who worked on Trump’s National Security Council before joining the Pentagon, was also involved in security preparations for the Jan. 6 electoral vote count on Capitol Hill, according to the committee. of the Chamber investigating the January 6 attackciting documents obtained from the Department of Defense.
Last September, the January 6 committee issued subpoenas to four former senior Trump administration officials, including Patel, who appeared before the committee for several hours in December.
Last April, Patel was named a board member of the former president’s media company, Trump Media. & Technology Group, which launched the “Truth Social” platform in February. Patel also published a pro-Trump children’s book titled “The Plot Against the King.”
As of last month, Patel was still pushing ahead with his plan to release documents currently in the National Archives.
“Now we’re in this fight,” Petal told conservative commentator Benny Johnson in a July 4 interview. “I’m working on it. And of course bureaucracy gets in the way, but that’s not going to stop us.”
“I will be going to the National Archives in the coming weeks, I will identify these documents,” he said.