What to know about an influential Trump loyalist carving out his own brand within the GOP

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kash Patel, a national security aide and player in Donald Trump’s political orbit, is widely expected to take on an influential role in the federal government should the former president win a second term.

A swaggering campaign surrogate who mythologizes the former president while promoting his own brand, Patel has a pedigree that sets him apart from many other Trump advisers. He frequently cites that experience — as a defense attorney, federal prosecutor, top House staffer and national security official — when he pledges to jettison those disloyal to Trump and attacks the very intelligence community he could one day oversee.

Here are some key things to know about Patel:

What was his path to such influence?

After graduating from law school at Pace University, Patel failed to get a job at the prestigious law firms he’d hoped to join. Instead, he became a public defender and spent nearly nine years in local and federal courts in Miami before joining the Justice Department.

A little more than three years later, Patel was hired as a staffer for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence led by Rep. Devin Nunes, a fierce Trump ally.

Nunes gave Patel a job running the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.

Patel helped author what has become known as the “Nunes Memo,” a four-page report that detailed how it said the Justice Department had erred in obtaining a warrant to surveil a former Trump campaign volunteer. The memo’s release faced vehement opposition from the Justice Department. A subsequent inspector general report identified significant problems with FBI surveillance during the Russia investigation, but also found no evidence that the FBI had acted with partisan motives in conducting the probe.

The memo caught Trump’s attention, and soon Patel was working on the National Security Council and would later serve in increasingly important roles. He was briefly the top adviser to the then-acting director of national intelligence and was tapped in November 2020 to be chief of staff to acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller.

What has he been doing since Trump left office?

Patel, 44, is on the board of Trump Media and Technology Group, which owns Truth Social, and has a consulting contract with the company that pays him $120,000 a year. And Trump’s leadership PAC has paid Patel more than $300,000 since the start of last year to serve as a national security adviser to the former president, according to campaign finance records and Truth Social’s public filings.

Shortly after Trump left the White House in January 2021, Patel launched Fight with Kash, an organization that funds defamation lawsuits and sells a wide variety of merchandise, including branded socks and water bottles, sweatshirts and baseball hats, a deck of playing cards with Trump as the cce and a bumbling Joe Biden in a jester costume as the king.

The organization has since become The Kash Foundation, a nonprofit that purports to support whistleblowers, law enforcement and education in “areas the mainstream media refuses to cover.”

Patel has said he won’t make money from the foundation and has publicly promised to be transparent about where i tdirects its resources.

But the foundation has released few specifics about its finances, and Patel’s comments about his organization’s expenditures don’t appear to align with public records.

Patel said in early 2023 that his charity had distributed nearly $100,000 the previous year. The charity-funded defamation lawsuits covered the cost of sending kids to camp and provided holiday meals for the needy, Patel said. But the charity filed a report with the IRS a few months later showing it gave away only about $55,000 in 2022 to unidentified entities.

Patel has also been busy writing books. He published a memoir last year — “Government Gangsters: The Deep State, the Truth, and the Battle for Our Democracy” — and has authored two works of children’s fiction that lionize Trump. “The Plot Against the King” features a thinly veiled Hillary Clinton as the villain going after “King Donald” while Kash, a wizard called the Distinguished Discoverer, exposes a nefarious plot.

What are his plans if he gets back into government?

In his final months in office, Trump unsuccessfully pushed the idea of installing Patel as the deputy director at either the FBI or CIA in an effort to strengthen the president’s control of the intelligence community. “Patel had virtually no experience that would qualify him to serve at the highest level of the world’s preeminent law enforcement agency,” Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr wrote in his memoir. But such a role could be in Patel’s future should Trump win a second term.

Patel has made clear that he is in lockstep with the former president on most national security issues, including the purging of intelligence officials deemed disloyal. He has spoken publicly about his desire to prosecute Trump’s political enemies within the government, as well as members of the media.

During an interview with Steve Bannon in December, Patel said he and others “will go out and find the conspirators not just in government, but in the media,” over the 2020 election, which Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden. ”We’re going to come after the people in the media who lied about American citizens who helped Joe Biden rig presidential elections,” he said. “We’re going to come after you, whether it’s criminally or civilly. We’ll figure that out. But yeah, we’re putting you all on notice.”


Contact AP’s global investigative team at Investigative@ap.org.

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