Nov 9, 2019

NSC staffer denies having secret Ukraine conversations with Trump

President Trump. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Staff/Getty Images

Kash Patel, a senior National Security Council official accused of running a secret backchannel to President Trump on Ukraine matters, has categorically denied ever discussing Ukraine with the president.

What he's saying: "A number of media outlets have falsely reported that, as senior director for counterterrorism on the National Security Council, I have communicated with President Trump regarding Ukraine," Patel told Axios on Friday night. "At no time have I ever communicated with the president on any matters involving Ukraine.

  • "Any reporting to the contrary, and any testimony provided to Congress, is simply false, and any current or former staff who suggest I have raised or discussed Ukraine matters with President Trump, are similarly misinformed or spreading outright falsehoods."

Why it matters: Trump's former top Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, told impeachment investigators that she heard Trump thought Patel was his Ukraine director and that Patel was slipping Ukraine-related "materials" to the president outside of the normal NSC channels. Patel has never been assigned to Ukraine on the NSC.

  • Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee seized on Hill's allegations about Patel, who previously worked for ranking member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and who helped write a memo that accused the Russia investigators of bias.

Between the lines: Hill said that when she heard from another NSC staffer about Patel's supposed involvement on Ukraine, she considered it to be so "strange" and alarming that she reported it to her superior.

  • Hill said, however, that she never found out what actually went on with Patel and that her superior, Charles Kupperman, never got back to her after telling her he'd look into the matter.
  • Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an NSC official who testified before impeachment investigators, also mentioned Patel in his testimony.
  • Vindman testified that Hill told him that Patel was misrepresenting himself as an Ukraine expert and the president had come to believe Patel was in charge of Ukraine policy on the NSC.

In a statement Friday night, Patel categorically denied all of these allegations from his current and former colleagues.

  • "I pride myself on my record as a dedicated national security professional who is entrusted to handle our nation's most sensitive matters," he said. "At no time have I strayed from my mission to protect the homeland in service to President Trump and the National Security Council."

Go deeper: Vindman says Mulvaney coordinated plan to push Ukraine for Biden investigations

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NSC staffer: Call with Giuliani listed in impeachment report was personal

Kash Patel, a senior National Security Council official, is interviewed on CBS. Photo: CBS

Kash Patel, a senior National Security Council official, told CBS News in an interview that aired Wednesday that his phone conversation with Rudy Giuliani documented in a draft impeachment report had nothing to do with Ukraine. He added he was "never a back channel to President Trump on Ukraine matters, at all, ever."

Why it matters: Call records included in an impeachment report released by House Democrats Tuesday show Patel spoke with Guiliani two months before the Trump administration suspended military aid to Ukraine.

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A viewer's guide to the impeachment hearings

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos by Alex Wong via Getty Images, and Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The next phase of impeachment begins at 10 a.m. today with the first public hearing about President Trump's actions toward Ukraine — so here's a look at the witnesses you're likely to see.

Why it matters: Impeachment so far has been a messy and confusing process, with so many subplots that it's easy to lose track of what really matters: whether Trump held up military aid and a White House meeting with Ukraine's new president in exchange for a public promise to investigate Joe Biden's family.

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The highlights from all of the public impeachment hearings

The view before Marie Yovanovitch's impeachment hearing. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The House Intelligence Committee wrapped up on Thursday its planned schedule of public testimony in its impeachment inquiry, holding seven hearings with 12 witnesses over the past two weeks.

The big picture: The committee heard hours of testimony from witnesses who were both working on the ground in Ukraine and within the Trump administration at the time of the alleged White House pressure campaign against the Ukrainian government to secure an investigation into the Biden family's business dealings.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 22, 2019