A close friend of former President Donald Trump said he was present when Trump declassified a wide range of documents, according to people familiar with the matter, after being given immunity for his testimony. Appeared before a federal grand jury.
Kash Patel testified Thursday after the Justice Department granted him immunity from prosecution and a federal judge in Washington issued a sealing order to that effect.
Although he had exercised his Fifth Amendment right to self-incrimination in a court appearance before a grand jury, the Justice Department later protected him, apparently acknowledging his importance as a witness. granted him limited immunity. Let him use his testimony against him.
In a statement released through a spokesperson on Friday, Patel clarified that his appearance was not voluntary and denied he had reached any kind of waiver “contract” with the Justice Department.
“Rather, his testimony was compelled against his objection through the only legal recourse available to the government – the grant of limited immunity.
The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into the discovery of top-secret records seized during the FBI’s Aug. 8 raid on Trump’s Florida property, Mar Arago. .
This is in addition to 15 boxes of records recovered by the National Archives and Records Administration in January and more than 30 classified marked documents turned over to investigators in June.
A former Justice Department prosecutor, Patel is a close ally of Trump and his administration, including serving as senior director of counter-terrorism on the National Security Council and later as chief of staff to Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller. played multiple roles in
In recent months, he has repeatedly publicly denounced the Justice Department’s Mar-a-Lago investigation. Appearing on a conservative podcast this week, he said when asked if he’d accept the FBI director position if Trump wins in 2024, he’s “totally agree with his boss.” Stated.
Patel, presumably because of his claims that the document, including his May interview with Breitbart News, existed in declassified Trump material even though no changes were made to the document’s classification. to the investigator’s interest.
In that interview, Patel said Trump “declassified a body of material that he thought the American people should have the right to read for themselves, in anticipation of leaving government.”
Mr Trump has previously claimed that the president could declassify information “just by thinking”, but has provided no evidence that he did. His lawyers specifically did not go so far as to claim that he took steps to declassify the materials found at his Mar-a-Lago, but the president has a wide range of declassifications to do as he pleases. It repeatedly claims to have authority.
Patel’s testimony, first reported by The Washington Post, was confirmed by a person familiar with the matter who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation. .
Department of Justice policy empowers prosecutors to seek court orders to compel testimony from witnesses by granting immunity if they exercise their right to self-incrimination. According to Department of Justice policy, among the factors considered in that determination is the value of the person’s likely testimony to possible investigation or prosecution.
Separately, FBI agents interviewed the Trump administration’s former deputy White House attorney in May and June about Trump’s handling of classified information as president, a person familiar with the matter told The AP on Friday. .
That attorney, John Eisenberg, told investigators what documents were in the box that Trump had taken to Mar-a-Lago after he left the White House because he didn’t help pack it. He also said he had no memory of Trump, as Patel claimed to have declassified entire categories of information broadly or unilaterally or doing so on the spot. said the man.
Eisenberg told his representatives he believes the president has broad declassification powers, but the extent of those powers, in some cases, also depends on the context, statutory analysis and the specific nature of the information involved. Then he said
He also told investigators an episode in which Trump wanted to post classified information on Twitter related to images of rockets exploding on the launch pad.
Eisenberg, who served as the NSC’s top attorney, reached out to relevant agencies to see if that would be an issue. Certain markings were removed before the image was posted, according to a person familiar with Eisenberg’s account.
The Post previously reported details of Eisenberg’s interview.
FBI officials spoke with a series of other witnesses, including a Trump aide who was seen on video moving the box at Mar-a-Lago.