Former federal prosecutor Patel is considered a key witness by the Justice Department because of the evidence he can provide to defend Trump’s holding of records. Some records contained classified information about Iran’s missile systems and information related to China, The Washington Post previously reported.
Investigators did not expect Patel to provide evidence implicating Trump in possible crimes, those people said. But they added that the government desperately wanted Trump’s direct explanation, under oath, of his declassification decision.
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In media interviews in May and June, Patel declared that he was present when Trump decided to declassify the materials, but not because of an investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia’s election interference, or his past on Hillary Clinton. I raised this issue in the context of the investigation of, The Mar-a-Lago spacecraft, which was in its infancy at the time, was not mentioned.
Trump has publicly said he declassified materials he brought into Mar-a-Lago, but his lawyers said in court filings that he may have done so. I have carefully avoided making such claims.
This is Patel’s second grand jury appearance in less than a month. During his first court appearance in October, he asserted his Fifth Amendment right to self-incrimination, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified. Prosecutors argued that he could not take the fifth because he was not in legal jeopardy, but a federal judge disagreed. with the government.
Prosecutors ultimately decided to grant Patel a limited-use waiver, according to people familiar with the matter.
That doesn’t mean his testimony necessarily hurt Trump. It’s entirely possible that his answer will help the former president. You may be a witness.
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Within days of Trump and his lawyers learning that the FBI had launched a criminal investigation this spring, Patel asked the right-wing media why Trump still holds so many classified government secrets. provided a public explanation of
In an interview with Breitbart on May 5, Patel said, “It’s information I feel Trump has spoken about on everything from Russiagate to the Ukraine impeachment debacle to critical national security issues.” .
“Trump, in anticipation of leaving government, has declassified the entire set of material that he thought the American people should have the right to read for themselves,” he said.
FBI agents have since questioned other former senior administration officials whether there was such a declassification and, more broadly, how Trump handled classified records. He specifically asked if he had seen evidence of Patel’s claims.
In May and June, the FBI conducted separate interviews with former White House deputy attorneys Pat Philbin and John Eisenberg on a variety of topics related to the handling of classified records, according to interview detail 2. officials spoke on condition of anonymity.discuss Ongoing investigation.
The agent’s first series of questions focused on whether the attorney participated in packing the box of records for Trump’s exit from office or knew any details about the effort. also said it wasn’t.
But FBI agents also pointed to Patel’s statement to a former White House attorney and asked whether Trump actually declassified numerous records. and wanted to know what process, if any, the Trump White House followed to declassify the records.
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Both Philbin and Eisenberg told the FBI they were unaware of the declassification of such a large volume of records, said a person familiar with the matter. Eisenberg explained his view that Trump had the legal authority to declassify the documents on the spot if he wanted, but said Trump, to his knowledge, did not.
In fact, Eisenberg reminded the FBI of a specific moment when Trump wanted to publicly tweet a classified image or fact of a classified document, a person familiar with the matter said. He told agents that White House officials should be careful to allow the intelligence or defense agency that produced the document to consider their concerns and assess the damage that even partial disclosure might cause. He said he advised Trump to follow a strict declassification process.
In one case, Eisenberg told agents that the agency would quickly review images of Iranian missiles on launch pads (photographs of top-secret documents) and remove identifying marks and other tradecraft clues so Trump could He said he made it possible to tweet it.
According to these people, in handling another Trump request to tweet state secrets, Eisenberg told the FBI: Trump discouraged the immediate declassification and sharing of documents that could reveal human sources. Eisenberg said the aide persuaded the president to wait until multiple agencies considered the potential harm from his release, according to people familiar with the matter. Trump didn’t send the tweet after all.
John Bolton, who served as national security adviser until Trump fired him in September 2019, said in an interview that he had not been questioned by the FBI. He also disputed Trump’s claim that he had a standing order to declassify anything he brought into his residence from the West Wing for review. He said he was very skeptical of Patel’s explanation that he had declassified the mountain all at once.
“There was never a standing order to declassify things. Mass declassification, or the notion of capricious declassification — I don’t remember Trump doing that. He didn’t.” Bolton said. “He acted so haphazardly that the format for saying ‘declassify something’ didn’t occur to him. He tweeted something or said something. If so, we considered it declassified.”