A White House national security official on Monday sued Politico and one of its reporters over fabricated stories and tweets accusing him of “lying, deceit and unethical conduct,” Fox News reported.
The suit, filed by Kash Patel, the National Security Council’s (NSC) senior counterterrorism director in Virginia, names “Fusion” Natasha Bertrand, a Politico reporter and MSNBC contributor infamous for peddling leaks from Fusion GPS, and Politico owner Robert Allbritton.
Patel, who joined the White House in February, formerly worked for Republican House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes. The left has been trying to discredit Patel since he helped craft the January 2018 FISA memo that outlined alleged surveillance abuses carried out by top officials at the Justice Department.
(Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Patel’s suit says Politico peddled falsehoods about him in Bertrand’s Oct. 23 story, headlined “Nunes Protege Fed Ukraine Info to Trump.”
The Politico piece said Patel “was among those passing negative information about Ukraine to President Donald Trump earlier this year, fueling the president’s belief that Ukraine was brimming with corruption and interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Democrats.”
Patel was “so involved in the issue,” the story said, that “at one point Trump thought he was in charge of Ukraine policy for the National Security Council.” This was attributed to closed-door House testimony by Fiona Hill,” a former NSC official. What’s more, Politico said, “Patel’s involvement demonstrates that the president had at least some support for the scheme from within the NSC” — the scheme being to pressure Ukraine into investigations that would help Trump politically.
Hill, however, only told impeachment investigators that she had become concerned after a staffer [not Trump] erroneously implied that Patel was the NSC director for Ukraine. This made Hill suspect that the president might think Patel—not Alexander Vindman— was in charge of Ukraine at the NSC and that Patel had been sending NSC material to Trump without authorization. She reported her concern about Patel to Charles Kupperman, who is in charge of NSC staffing, as well as to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent, and Ukraine Envoy Bill Taylor.
Hill made clear in her testimony that she never found out what actually went on between Patel and the president and that Kupperman never got back to her after telling her he’d look into the matter.
Patel has categorically denied that he ever discussed Ukraine with the president.
“A number of media outlets have falsely reported that, as senior director for counterterrorism on the National Security Council, I have communicated with President Trump regarding Ukraine,” Patel told Axios earlier this month. “At no time have I ever communicated with the president on any matters involving Ukraine.
“Any reporting to the contrary, and any testimony provided to Congress, is simply false, and any current or former staff who suggest I have raised or discussed Ukraine matters with President Trump, are similarly misinformed or spreading outright falsehoods,” he added.
“I pride myself on my record as a dedicated national security professional who is entrusted to handle our nation’s most sensitive matters,” he said. “At no time have I strayed from my mission to protect the homeland in service to President Trump and the National Security Council.”
Patel’s suit says, “at no time” before Oct. 30 “had Kash ever communicated with the president on any matters involving Ukraine. Kash never supplied any Ukraine ‘materials’ to the president.”
The lawsuit also charges that the defendants “acted in concert” with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the chair of the House Intel Committee or his aides to further the impeachment probe, in order to “destroy Kash’s reputation” as a lawyer and presidential aide to further “Schiff’s baseless Ukrainian quid pro quo hoax.”
A second story by Bertrand, on Oct. 30, quoted sources as saying Vindman told lawmakers that Patel “‘misrepresented’ himself” to Trump “in an effort to involve himself further in Ukraine policy, according to two people familiar with his closed-door deposition.” The piece said the president “believed at the time” that Patel “was actually the NSC’s top Ukraine expert instead of Vindman,” despite Patel’s lack of experience with Ukraine. This, Politico said, highlighted “the unusual steps top NSC officials were taking as early as May to avoid angering or annoying the president on Ukraine issues,” and “feeding Trump’s belief that Ukraine was brimming with corruption and had interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Democrats.”
The lawsuit contends — and this is certain to be contested — that if Politico “had bothered to wait for the transcript, they would have learned that Hill completely fabricated the story that Kash had provided ‘materials on Ukraine’ to the president.”
Vindman’s testimony shows he had no firsthand knowledge of Patel’s actions beyond what Hill told him, according to the suit, and said Patel was held “in high regard.”
Patel’s argument rests on the fact that Hill and Vindman offered no direct evidence to show he briefed the president on Ukraine, yet Politico reported it as fact. Politico will try to argue that it was fairly reporting on congressional testimony, but as Fox News points out, “the stories were based on leaked accounts, not the actual transcripts.”
Patel is described as a “private individual” in the suit, which is key because libel suits are generally not successful if the victim is deemed a public figure.
He is seeking more than $25 million in damages.