How a Devin Nunes aide was deeply involved in the push for Trump to exploit Ukraine: report

How a Devin Nunes aide was deeply involved in the push for Trump to exploit Ukraine: report
Gage Skidmore

With President Donald Trump now facing an impeachment inquiry in the U.S. House of Representatives because of the Ukraine scandal, Rep. Devin Nunes of California continues to be an aggressive defender of the president — insisting that Trump did nothing wrong during his now-famous July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. And according to a report by journalist Natasha Bertrand for Politico, one of Nunes’ top staffers did a lot to promote Trump’s belief that “Ukraine was brimming with corruption and interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Democrats.”

The staffer is Kashyap Patel, who joined the National Security Council’s International Organizations and Alliances directorate in February. Bertrand reports that according to recent testimony by Fiona Hill (formerly a senior director of European and Russian affairs under Trump), Patel was so involved in Ukraine-related activities earlier this year that Trump thought he was in charge of Ukraine policy for the NSC. An anonymous source described by Bertrand as someone with “direct knowledge of (Hill’s) recent deposition” described her Patel-related testimony to Politico.

Previously, Bertrand reports, Democrats on Capitol Hill were aware of Patel because of his efforts to discredit former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. And because of Patel’s efforts to influence Trump on Ukraine, according to Bertrand, House Democrats involved in the impeachment inquiry now have “yet another name to add to their witness list.”

Patel, according to Bertrand, was “promoted to a senior counterterrorism role” on the NEC’s International Organizations and Alliances board around the time of Trump’s July 25 conversation with Zelensky. Bertrand also reports that Patel’s name has come up “in connection with the shadow foreign policy campaign Trump allegedly directed in an effort to extract political favors from” Zelensky.

Counterterrorism expert Joshua Geltzer told Politico that the type of work in Ukraine that Hill described Patel as doing “seems wildly outside the scope of anything a counterterrorism senior director at NSC should be spending their time on. What’s more, it politicizes a piece of the NSC staff that administrations of both parties have worked for decades to keep as apolitical as possible.”

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