University of Richmond alumnus and adviser to former President Donald Trump, Kash Patel, ‘02, testified on Nov. 3 before a special grand jury investigating Trump’s potential mishandling of classified documents.
As a key witness in the investigation, Patel’s testimony is significant because of evidence he might supply supporting Trump’s defense that he kept the records because he declassified them. The testimony focused on public statements he made this spring that he was present when Trump declassified government documents before leaving office, according to the Washington Post.
“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 in a May 5 interview with Breitbart News. “I was there with President Trump when he said ‘We are declassifying this information.’”
Patel had appeared before the grand jury in October but refused to testify by asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, according to The Wall Street Journal. A federal judge then decided to compel his testimony by granting Patel limited-use immunity which means as long as he tells the truth, Patel can not be charged with a crime based on his testimony, according to The Washington Post.
Patel did not respond to The Collegian’s request for comment.
Though the consequences Trump and members of his administration may face are currently unclear, it is important to address the national security threats that come from mishandling classified documents, Pippa Holloway, UR history professor with specialties in politics and law, wrote in an email to The Collegian.
“It’s critical the Department of Justice gets to the bottom of this,” Holloway wrote. “We have to know what Trump was doing with all these records and how our national security was compromised by their removal and storage at an unsafe private facility.”
Patel originally found himself at the center of the FBI’s investigation on Aug. 26, when the U.S. Department of Justice revealed his name in a heavily redacted version of an affidavit. FBI agents used the affidavit to obtain a warrant for their Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago where they and officials from the National Archives and Records Association retrieved over 11,000 documents – including over 100 marked as classified and some that had top-secret information about China and Iran’s missile system.
The DOJ did not specify why Patel’s name was left in the affidavit.
The Mar-a-Lago search was the culmination of the FBI’s repeated attempts to retrieve documents from the Trump administration since launching a criminal investigation into the potential mishandling of the documents in February.
Originally from Garden City, New York, Patel majored in history while at UR before going on to serve in several high-level government positions on the National Security Council and as chief of staff for the acting U.S. secretary of defense under Trump.
In June 2022 Trump also granted Patel access to presidential documents, according to ABC News. Patel then said he would retrieve classified documents from the National Archives and publish them online, in a June 21 interview. Patel did not say how he would legally obtain or declassify the documents.
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Junior Brady Lang, chairman of the Richmond College Republicans, said it seems like the FBI’s investigation is another attempt by Trump’s opponents to discredit him.
“People really just dislike him, so they're gonna try and find any way they can to tear him down, which is probably why they're still dragging this out,” Lang said.
Overall, Lang also hopes the FBI concludes the investigation of whether the documents in Mar-a-Lago were classified as quickly as possible, he said.
“I just hope it gets resolved quickly and we can get back to the work of making this into a better country to live in,” Lang said.
Though senior Lexi Cobbs, president of the University of Richmond College Democrats, regrets that Patel’s values and actions may reflect upon UR, she recognized the value of his testimony in holding political leaders accountable, she said.
“We hope his testimony may help the trial come to an equitable conclusion,” Cobbs said. “Hopefully, sometime justice can be found in this country.”
Contact news writer Katie Castellani at email@example.com.
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