ABC News cited an old interview with Kash Patel, the former chief of staff for the Defense Department under Donald Trump, in which he revealed his plot to post declassified documents on his personal website. While ABC noted his remarks came weeks before the FBI search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, there are at least six other times where Patel outlined his plot, legal analyst Marcy Wheeler and Just Security noticed.
The same day that Kash Patel bragged he would take on his new job organizing Trump's National Archives directory, the Justice Department gave Trump the subpoena that he turn over surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago. Patel, who previously worked for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), then went on other right-wing streaming "shows" to talk about his plot.
Conservative writer John Solomon penned a column revealing in June that Trump was subpoenaed for videos looking at the place where the government documents were being kept. It was then revealed that Solomon was also given the National Archives assignment that Patel scored too.
"That’s because if Trump deliberately allowed people not permitted access to classified documents or his negligence allowed people to remove such documents, it would trigger other parts of the Espionage Act than the one that prohibits someone from stealing classified documents and refusing to give them back (and all are covered by the warrant)," wrote Wheeler.
As Just Security pointed out, Patel tipped his hand that the documents were actually classified.
“Part of that transparency comes in the form of, you know, providing the American public with information that should never have been classified or kept from them in the first place," he said. He went on to explain that Trump "declassified" the documents "on the way out of the White House." There's no paper trail to confirm this, however.
As Wheeler pointed out, however, Patel's understanding of the documents began as early as May 2022, when he told Breitbart that Trump had declassified all of the documents but that there was no prior effort at the White House to declassify the documents. It means that months ago, Patel not only knew all of this was coming, but he was already blaming "the left," saying they would claim Trump was disclosing classified information from Russiagate and the attempted bribery of Ukraine that resulted in his first impeachment.
“The White House counsel failed to generate the paperwork to change the classification markings, but that doesn’t mean the information wasn’t declassified,” Patel said. “I was there with President Trump when he said ‘We are declassifying this information.’"
At the end of June, Trump specifically directed the National Archives "to give him access to the documents related to the Russia probe that were declassified in the final days of his administration," wrote Politico. John Solomon then got to look through the documents to write about. Through Solomon, Trump then claimed that he has a blanket power to declassify anything he wants.
As it turns out, Trump's White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy, Patrick Philbin, were talking to the FBI about Trump taking documents to Mar-a-Lago, the New York Times also reported this week.
On July 4, Patel told another right-wing streaming show that the government bureaucrats "stopped the declassification process." So, again, he confessed that the documents Trump had were still classified.
"I apologize I can’t get it declassified overnight, but I’m on it,” he said.
Throughout the whole interview, he kept wavering on whether the documents were declassified while saying he was working to declassify them.
He went on to talk about how he knows "first hand" what some of the documents were about. "If Kash knows that [it's] because Trump let him wade through Top Secret documents he was no longer cleared to access — then Trump may have additional criminal liability," wrote Wheeler.
The New York Times reported, “It is not clear why Mr. Trump had classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. There is no evidence yet that he was planning to release the material.” But as Just Security explained, that flies in the face of the interviews with Patel leading up to the search warrant.
On another note, Michael Flynn's protege Ezra Cohen-Watnick was appointed to be chairperson of the Public Interest Declassification Board before Christmas in 2020. Politico reported not long after the 2020 election that prior to the appointment to the board, Cohen-Watnick "has been acting in the role of top spec ops official since the summer and became the Pentagon’s acting top intelligence official last week."
President Joe Biden has been good about ensuring that Trump appointees were removed from boards, but these seem to be flying under the radar.