Former Chief of Staff to the Department of Defense Kash Patel speaks during a campaign rally at Minden-Tahoe Airport on October 08, 2022 in Minden, Nevada.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — Trump advisor Kash Patel has been granted immunity by the Justice Department, NBC News confirmed, after a judge ruled that an immunity offer was the only way to compel Patel to testify in the ongoing probe of classified documents removed from the White House in the final days of former President Donald Trump’s first term.
Patel is expected to testify soon in the case, NBC reported.
Patel’s testimony is considered crucial to answering the question of whether Trump declassified any of the documents he took with him to his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago. FBI agents removed thousands of government documents during a raid of Trump’s property in August, including more than 100 that bore classification markings.
Trump has claimed that he declassified all the documents he took with him before he left office, but so far the aides who have testified before a grand jury have said they saw no evidence that Trump declassified anything. Presidents have broad powers to declassify documents, but declassification orders must follow a procedure, and there is no indication that Trump ever initiated this procedure before he took the documents with him.
Patel, however, claimed in an August interview with The Wall Street Journal that he had personally witnessed Trump verbally declassify documents.
Patel also indicated that Trump wanted the documents to be made public because the former president believed the records supported his claim that he had been unjustly targeted by the Justice Department over his campaign’s ties to Russia.
“It had to do with Russiagate. It had to do with the Hillary email scandal. It had to do with a whole lot of other stuff,” Patel told the Journal. “And [Trump] said, ‘This is all declassified.'”
But when Patel was called later to testify before the grand jury in October, he reportedly did not make the same assertions. Instead, he repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination.
In a case that hinges on whether Trump mishandled state secrets, the question of whether the documents marked classified were in fact state secrets is pivotal.
Patel served on the National Security Council during the Trump administration, and in the weeks following the 2020 presidential election, he became an influential voice arguing that the president should not accept his election loss to President Joe Biden.
Patel remained on Trump’s staff after the former president relocated to Florida, one of the few senior level aides to do so. This spring, Patel was given a seat on the board of Trump Media and Technology Group, the company behind Trump’s social media platform, Truth Social.
But a few months later, he and Trump and a group of Trump loyalists all left the board of the beleaguered company, which is currently the target of an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.