EXCLUSIVE — A Trump loyalist who served in the former president’s Department of Defense and National Security Council denied a rumor that he briefly led the CIA, a claim that emerged during a deposition with the Jan. 6 committee and a former Trump White House official.
Kash Patel, who was selected to be the chief of staff to then-acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller in November 2020, told the Washington Examiner in an interview that he was never installed in any capacity at the CIA despite discussions from the Trump administration.
Then-White House communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin told the Jan. 6 committee that Patel was reportedly “actually the CIA director” for “about 14 minutes,” though she admitted she couldn’t corroborate the claim, according to transcripts the committee released late last month.
“I will share one thing that I cannot confirm myself, but it’s worth looking into,” Griffin told the committee. “I have been told that they tried to fire Gina Haspel, the CIA director, and install Kash Patel. But Gina, who’s a very savvy operator and an incredible public servant, already had what I call a suicide pact in place, where basically the entire IC would walk with her if that happened, officially, like — or essentially, like, decapitating the entire intelligence community. So they were able to stop it. But, allegedly, for about 14 minutes, Kash was actually the CIA director.”
There is no public record of Gina Haspel being replaced by Patel for any period of time.
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Patel criticized Griffin for the unverified claim, saying, “It’s amazing that a communications director would have any insight [into] what’s going on in the national security apparatus of the United States, especially when she was in zero meetings involving any of these discussions. What I can say and will say is that, you know … with President Trump, there was always conversations about moving people in personnel around to execute national security priorities. And there was a time when they considered me to be the deputy director of the CIA. And maybe that’s what she’s referring to.”
Griffin also told the committee there was a “suicide pact” in place among intelligence community officials should then-President Donald Trump fire Haspel, then the director of the CIA. At the time, in late December 2020, there were concerns that Trump could fire Haspel and appoint a loyalist, likely Patel, while he was challenging the results of the 2020 presidential election, which he lost to Joe Biden.
He also described the so-called suicide pact designed to trigger if Haspel left the CIA as “one of the most unconstitutional things I can ever imagine” and said it demonstrates “how big the Deep State really is” given they were going to resign “because the commander in chief executes his authority to appoint people to run his agencies and departments as he sees fit.”
Patel noted that many of the conversations about him moving to the CIA were not in “the waning hours” of the administration, though there was another incident in December that sparked such questions. Mike Lindell, the MyPillow founder who became a vocal Trump election denier, visited the president in the Oval Office, and he was photographed holding a note that read, “Move Kash Patel to CIA Acting.”
Around the time of the Lindell meeting, Haspel threatened to resign if Trump went ahead and appointed Patel, according to Axios. Trump had planned to force out then-CIA Deputy Director Vaughn Bishop and replace him with Patel, and if Haspel quit in protest, Patel or another loyalist could run the agency. He never went through with the plan after Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone defended her performance.
Patel alleged that he and then-Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe “caught Gina lying to the president of the United States on a sensitive matter” and said they “found that unacceptable.”
“We felt that our duty to inform him of it and that maybe he would or should make some changes because there are certain operations that we do, and I can’t get into now, but sensitive national security operations that we were working, that a) she lied about and b) prevented us from executing on it,” he said, later describing the topics of the supposed lies as “a couple of specific, very high level, very sensitive national security operations.”
Patel also defended his and the Pentagon’s actions to the Jan. 6 committee and argued that they engaged in overreach by asking him about topics that he said were unrelated to the riot. He accused the committee of “looking to politicize their investigation” and reiterated many topics that have been posed by other Trump officials regarding then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) role in the security failures on Jan. 6 to the Washington Examiner.
Various officials have blamed different law enforcement agencies for the way Jan. 6 unfolded, including the lack of security measures despite a known threat by some among the thousands of Trump supporters who planned to travel to Washington, D.C., to hear him speak, and the apparent delay in the deployment of the National Guard to the capital as the riot unfolded, among other questions.
The Department of Defense inspector general, however, concluded that Pentagon officials acted appropriately before and on Jan. 6, and no DOD officials obstructed their response on the day of either.