NEW YORK – An Indian American White House official has been enmeshed in the controversy over President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine that is the focus of the impeachment hearings against him.
House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff Nov. 21 named Kashyap Patel as a source providing information on Ukraine matters directly to Trump, bypassing the National Security Council staffers in-charge of the country's matters.
Patel, who is the senior director of counter terrorism in the NSC, is a political appointee caught in the crossfire between Trump loyalists and those taking on the president.
During the impeachment hearing testimony by Fiona Hill, the former NSC senior director dealing with Ukraine, Schiff said, "The indication is that Kash Patel provided some information directly to the president without your knowledge."
"That seems to be the indication," she replied.
To reinforce the Democratic line that there was an unofficial parallel foreign policy set up dealing with Ukraine, Schiff said that Trump thought an individual was the director of Ukraine in the NSC and asked her who it was.
Hill said that the person was referred to only as "Kash" and "I had to search my mind. The only Kash I knew at the National Security Agency was Kash Patel."
Schiff asked her if he worked on Ukraine and reported to her, and she replied that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who had testified earlier, was the director for Ukraine and she did not oversee Patel.
In secret hearings last month Vindman had told the panel investigating Trump for impeachment that Patel had misrepresented his expertise on Ukraine to the president.
Because of this he had been prevented from attending a briefing for Trump, he said.
Patel had worked for the Intelligence Committee, when it was controlled by the Republicans and David Nunes was its chair.
As an aide to Trump's vociferous supporter Nunes, Patel raised questions about the credibility of the allegations against Trump of colluding with Russians, which led to the protracted inquiry by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who ultimately did not find such collusion.
Patel was the principal author of a memo issued by Nunes that accused the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department of bias against Trump and of abusing laws to get warrants to conduct surveillance of a Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page.
The government could not find any grounds to prosecute Page.
Patel had earlier worked as a counter-terrorism prosecutor for the Justice Department.
In related news AP adds from Washington: A second U.S. Embassy staffer in Kyiv overheard a cellphone call between President Donald Trump and his ambassador to the European Union discussing a need for Ukrainian officials to pursue “investigations,” The Associated Press has learned.
The July 26 call between Trump and Gordon Sondland was first described during testimony Nov. 13 by William Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Taylor said one of his staffers overhead the call while Sondland was in a Kyiv restaurant the day after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that triggered the House impeachment inquiry.
The second diplomatic staffer also at the table was Suriya Jayanti, a foreign service officer based in Kyiv. A person briefed on what Jayanti overheard spoke to AP on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter currently under investigation.
The accounts of the two embassy staffers could tie Trump closer to alleged efforts to hold up military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations into political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings. In defending Trump on Nov. 13, Republicans repeatedly highlighted that Taylor never directly heard the president direct anyone to demand that the Ukrainians open the probe.
Trump on Nov. 13 said he did not recall the July 26 call with Sondland.
Jayanti is an attorney who joined the State Department in 2012 and was previously posted at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. She has been stationed since September 2018 at the embassy in Kyiv where she helps coordinate U.S. business interests with the former Soviet republic’s energy industry.
Jayanti was in Washington last month and scheduled for a closed-door interview with impeachment investigators. But the deposition was canceled because of the funeral for former House Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings and has not yet been rescheduled.