However bad your workplace environment may be — whether because of office politics, scheming colleagues, or backstabbing intrigue — just be thankful that you don’t work in the Trump White House.
A report today in The New York Times suggests that the administration is a den of paranoia where staffers are constantly second-guessing the actions of others to determine if they’ve gone rogue.
The story concerns the suspicions by senior officials on the White House national security team that a particularly partisan colleague of theirs — Kashyap Patel, an aide to the National Security Council — was passing documents about Ukraine to Donald Trump in yet another backchannel, bypassing typical State Department and national security channels and procedures in much the way that his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his now-indicted colleagues had been in their dealings with the former Soviet republic.
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The officials became worried about Patel’s interactions with the president after Trump referred to him as one of his premiere Ukraine policy specialists and said that he wanted to discuss documents related to that country with him, despite the fact that the aide was assigned to work on counterterrorism issues unrelated to Ukraine.
According to The Times:
“The contents of the documents were not clear, nor was it clear how Mr. Trump got them. Typically, aides prepare policy briefings for presidents that several agencies sign off on in a highly controlled process. But Mr. Trump has adopted a much more freewheeling approach, taking in unverified information from sources both inside and outside the White House and seeking out and promoting assertions that fit his narrative.”
The concern by Patel’s colleagues has caught the attention of House impeachment investigators who are now looking into the role that the national security aide may have played in the “shadow foreign policy” that resulted in the allegations that Trump withheld military assistance from Ukraine to blackmail their government into investigating his political rivals.
“Fiona Hill, the National Security Council’s former senior director for Eurasian and Russian affairs, testified to House investigators last week that she believed Mr. Patel was improperly getting involved in Ukraine policy and was sending information to Mr. Trump, some of the people said,” The New York Times writes.
“Ms. Hill grew alarmed earlier this year when an aide from the White House executive secretary’s office told her that Mr. Trump wanted to talk to Mr. Patel and identified him as the National Security Council’s ‘Ukraine director,’ a position held by one of Ms. Hill’s deputies. The aide said Mr. Trump wanted to meet with Mr. Patel about documents he had received on Ukraine.”
“Ms. Hill responded by asking who Mr. Patel was. While the aide from the executive secretary’s office did not state explicitly that Mr. Patel sent the Ukraine documents to Mr. Trump, Ms. Hill understood that to be the implication, according to a person familiar with her testimony,” the story continues.
The Times goes on to report that Hill discussed her concerns with her superiors on the NSC, including the then National Security Advisor John Bolton, that Patel was “meddling outside of his portfolio.”
The partisan credentials of the suspected meddler include Patel’s work as an investigator for the House Intelligence Committee under Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) when the GOP still had the majority in the House of Representatives where he worked to discredit the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
A onetime federal counterterrorism prosecutor, Patel’s background is actually appropriate for his assigned role, but none of his previous work has indicated that he has any particular expertise in the intricacies of Ukraine policy-making. His reactionary, right-wing extremist credentials, however, seem to be qualifications enough for Donald Trump to recruit him as part of his group of secret, behind-the-scenes conspirators in his attempts to extract his illicit quid pro quo for partisan political gain from the Ukranian government.
That’s one more witness for congressional investigators to subpoena and one more unconstitutional refusal to honor that subpoena likely to emerge from the White House.
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Original reporting by Julian E. Barnes, Adam Goldman, and