Trump tried to appoint loyalist as CIA deputy chief and force Gina Haspel to resign, say officials

Kim Sengupta
·4 min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Donald Trump wanted to appoint as the deputy chief of the CIA a Republican staffer who had been sent to London to discredit Christopher Steele, the former MI6 officer who produced the dossier on the US President’s Russian connection, it has been claimed.

The aim ultimately was to make Kashyap “Kash” Patel the de-facto head of the Agency by provoking the resignation of the director, Gina Haspel, paving the way for him to take over as acting head.

The attempt to put Patel, considered to be a fervent Trump loyalist, in the hugely influential position in the US intelligence system took place in December, according to the news website Axios and a number of American officials.

Haspel has been under sustained fire from members of the Trump team for supposedly failing to go after his enemies. The president's son, Donald Trump junior, has been a vocal critic.

Mike Lindell, a Trump ally, businessman and Republican donor, was photographed by the Washington Post leaving the White House after a meeting with Trump with a note saying “Move Kash Patel to CIA Acting”. The document also showed the phrases “ insurrection act know as a result of the assault on the ...” and “martial law if necessary at the first hint of any... ”.

Lindell, the founder and CEO of MyPillow, a pillow manufacturing company, is facing legal action from the voting machine manufacturers, Dominion, for making baseless allegations that that the company helped rig the Presidential election for Joe Biden. He claimed last month that the result was “the biggest fraud is the Dominion machines.”

Lindell told a number of news outlets that his meeting with the president at the time was brief, and he had talked mainly to the White House legal team.

Trump’s plan for the CIA is said to have been at an advanced stage, with paperwork drawn up and Patel summoned back to Washington from a trip to Asia. Haspel, according to officials, stated, as expected, that she would resign if Patel was foisted as her deputy.

It is believed that at this point a number of senior figures in the administration, including Vice-President Mike Pence, spoke up in support of her. Trump decided, at the end to make Patel chief of staff to Chris Miller, who had become Defence Secretary after the dismissal of Mark Esper.

Patel’s appointment was part of what was seen as an attempted takeover of the Pentagon. Other arrivals included Anthony Tata, a retired brigadier general who once called Barack Obama a “terrorist leader”, and Douglas Macgregor, a former colonel who referred to refugees and migrants to Europe as “Muslim invaders” and called for martial law at the Mexican border.

Patel, a 39-year-old lawyer, has had a remarkably swift rise in Trump’s supporting network. He worked for Congressman Devin Nunes, who had to step down at one stage as the chairperson of House Intelligence Affairs Committee, after being exposed over secret contacts with the White House over the investigation into Trump’s Russian connections.

Christopher Steele, whose dossier on Trump allegedly being the Muscovian candidate for the White House had become a major factor in the Russia investigation, has been a particular target for Trump and his allies.

Patel visited London with another Nunes staffer, Doug Presley, in August on an “information gathering trip” on Steele. They attempted to meet Steele at his firm’s offices; not finding him there they went to his lawyer’s offices but were turned away. The US embassy in London was unaware of the visit, as was the case with the British Foreign Office, the Republican Representative Mike Conaway – who had taken over from Nunes as chairperson in the committee – and its senior Democrat, Adam Schiff.

Patel has long been involved in efforts to discredit the Russia allegations faced by Trump. In February 2018 he was named as one of the authors of a memo by Nunes, which purported to show the results of the House investigation into the matter clearing the president. The Democrats charged that the contents had been doctored.

After Steele and the Russian inquiry, Patel was embroiled in controversy during Trump’s impeachment over claims that he had pressurised the Ukrainian government to open an investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter in an attempt to discredit the Democrat contender.

Patel has stressed that he had never met Lindell. He has denied allegations of pressurising the Ukrainian government.

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