The Inside Story of How Spygate Was Uncovered—Lead Investigator Kash Patel Tells All
In this exclusive interview, we sit down with Kash Patel, a former Obama-era DOJ prosecutor, who was essential in uncovering the Spygate scandal. Personally recruited by Congressman Devin Nunes, he spearheaded the investigation into the FBI’s handling of the Russia probe.
And later, as Principal Deputy to the Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, he pushed forward the release of numerous documents, transcripts, and text messages—so the American people could finally see it all for themselves.
What was it like to lead this investigation, facing obstacles at every turn?
Jan Jekielek: Kash Patel, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Kash Patel: Thanks for having me. I really appreciate your time.
Mr. Jekielek: Kash, you’re one of the stars of the film, “The Plot Against the President,” and of course, the book by Lee Smith. That’s when I first became aware of you. Tell me about the beginnings of this. I’ve interviewed Congressman Nunes about this, your involvement, and what you discovered.
Mr. Patel: I was looking to get out of DOJ at the time and Devin said, I really need someone to help me run this investigation. Come over here. I’ll let you work on the counterterrorism stuff that you’re interested in and that’s your background for the Intel committee, but you can also lead up this investigation. At that time, I said, “Sure, let’s do it. It’ll be a report that no one reads.”
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s get into the beginnings of the investigation. I think you came in about four months after the knowledge of the existence of the Steele dossier.
Mr. Patel: I think I started on House Intel in April, 2017, [after the Steele dossier] was released in January, 2017, right around the turn of the year. As soon as I got in, I asked to dive deeper into the dossier because it was so public and there were rumors that it was used to help further the investigation into Trump. We were just at the beginning of this. But at the time, we obviously had access to classified information that I couldn’t share with the public, which led us to review the FISA application, and that back then wasn’t even a public fact that there was a FISA application against associates of a presidential campaign, which was a little shocking in and of itself.
But I said, let’s take a look at that if we’re going to look at all the Russia collusion stuff, and who interfered, and if there was influence by another country against the Trump campaign associate, that would be the best place to look. So we went and reviewed, or I went and looked at the first five application and read it basically cover to cover.
Mr. Jekielek: Clearly, you found some shocking things.
Mr. Patel: At my time at DOJ doing terrorism prosecutions, one uses FISA all the time. So I had done the FISA applications and search warrants. I presented them, put them together, worked with the FBI, DOJ, and the intel community. It’s a massive, massive lift. I was very familiar with the process and I think they also knew that on House Intel, so maybe that’s another reason they asked me to come over with them for the investigation.
I was expecting to see what I normally saw: a well planned document that’s 150, 200 pages long, substantiating each and every allegation with a factual basis and some hard proof, credible witnesses, good sourcing, things like that. That’s basically in every file that I’ve ever worked on or seen.
But in this one, the bulk of the subject matter of the FISA was the Steele dossier itself. I found that unbelievable. Unbelievably remarkable in the sense that—is that it? Where’s the rest? As I read the rest of the application, there was no “rest.” So I said, “Devin, we have a problem here. Either they’re not showing us everything or this is a serious issue and we need to dig further.”
Mr. Jekielek: This is the Carter Page FISA?
Mr. Patel: Right.
Mr. Jekielek: Or one of them?
Mr. Patel: The first one.
Mr. Jekielek: The first one.
Mr. Patel: So I said, “Devin, the way I would recommend running this investigation is, you have to acquire as much of the documents that you can, that they’ll permit you to do.” I was used to the Department of Justice grand jury subpoena power. If we wanted something, we had a very good chance of getting it because we could go to court, and we just had so much weight and heft behind the DOJ, as you should.
But in Congress, I would quickly learn, as Trey Gowdy told me at my first encounter with him, “Kash, welcome to Congress. This is where good investigations go to die.” He was just coming off Benghazi, he was a former federal prosecutor himself, and what he was alluding to was the limited power that Congress actually has to produce and acquire the documents necessary to further an investigation.
So I said, “Let’s dig in anyway.” Let’s see what we can get. Let’s focus on the documents that we know exist, the FISA. Let’s get the underlying documents, the source materials, and then let’s start lining up witnesses that we’re going to want to interview once we complete collecting our documents, and we can put them under oath and ask them what they knew. Then we can get all that information out in the report to the American people.
Mr. Jekielek: This was you creating, initially, the Nunes memo.
Mr. Patel: The Nunes memo wouldn’t come for almost a year after that. … The concept of the Nunes memo came much, much later because we were having a problem getting the classified information out to the American public so that they could read it themselves. Also, we couldn’t go out to the microphones, or the sticks as we used to call them, and just tell everyone, “Look what we found.”
The Democrats had their own way of doing business under Adam Schiff, but we sort of held true to the application of ethical standards and rules and procedures. We’re not able to just drum out information without revealing classified information, but there’s a way to get there and the Nunes memo was way down the road. It allowed us, under House rules, a way to present the information to the American public, so it’s a vehicle we use later.
Mr. Jekielek: You interviewed about 60 witnesses, specifically around the question of collusion. This is something that I thought was very interesting, reading Lee’s book back in the day. You had this very, very specific, legally formulated question that you asked everybody.
Mr. Patel: As we were building up to the interviews, we have to just make a whole list. We can’t really start bringing in people right away. The crux of any investigation is the documents, the documents that the agencies themselves created. That’s going to be the big picture portion of the investigation. The interviews are window dressing. They’re nice to have if you can get them, and under oath, they’re even better, but you can’t have a successful interview without the documents.
So once we started putting together the documents, I said, “What’s the theory or thing that we need to have answered during the interviews,” and we just boiled it down to its simplest form. We were tasked with finding out whether or not there was any conspiracy, collusion, or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. So I said, “Why don’t we just ask everyone under oath, those three Cs [conspiracy, collusion, coordination]?” Ask them, “Do you have any information that the Trump candidacy and his team colluded with the Russian government?” Substitute coordination; substitute conspired.
If anyone said yes, then we want to know. We want to know what’s your basis, and then we can go and get more documents and more people, and say, “This is where this theory came from.” All 60-some witnesses said no to every question under oath relating to coordination, conspiracy, and collusion.
That means, I’m talking to attorney generals, former attorney generals, former high level DOJ folks, former FBI guys, former high level FBI guys, deputy director of the FBI, heads of the IC [Intelligence Community], all of these people who were in place at the time during the Obama administration, not a single one of them could tell me under oath that they had evidence of any kind of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy. I found that shocking since for the last year at that point, the media had been talking about this grand scheme by President Trump and his allies to use Putin to rig the election.
Mr. Jekielek: There were people also publicly saying things that were quite different from what they were saying under oath.
Mr. Patel: Yes, lots of people, and that was one of our hardest parts. [That was] the reason we did the depositions and the transcripts. The other reason we did them was, we wanted to print them out and send them out so you guys could read them for yourselves rather than having to rely on us to say, what they say in that interview, what they say in this interview. … That was one of the deals I made with Devin, I said, “Whatever we find, documents or interviews or otherwise, we put it out to the American people,” and he agreed to that right away.
The problem we ran into was the interagency people going out and saying misleading things about an interview that was actually ongoing. The best example of that is the Donald Trump Jr. interview. Some of the things that came out of his interview while the interview was going on turned out to be just blatantly false, such as the date of this specific Trump Tower meeting and when Don Jr. had met with certain individuals, if I remember correctly.
But it was hard for us to counter that because our members, rightly so, weren’t going to go to the media and just violate the rules to disclose the entire transcript. We had to wait. We did it the right way, and we ultimately got all the transcripts out, and thanks to people like you who care, they’re able to read and see for themselves that what many were saying to the media, the mainstream media on the left, was totally wrong.
Mr. Jekielek: What was the impact of that in your mind?
Mr. Patel: It’s just the total failure of many in Congress to do their constitutional oversight responsibility. They bent to politics. Their animosity for President Trump overtook any credibility decisions they should have made because all they wanted to do under Adam Schiff’s leadership was castigate President Trump.
If we found something to do that, I told them that I wanted that out there. That was the deal. If we found that he [President Trump] did this crazy thing with Putin or paid this guy to do X just so he can help win a few votes, I want the American public to know that. There has to be accountability across the board. But we were playing with two totally different systems of accountability for the American public, between the Democrats and the Republicans on the House Intel committee.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s very interesting that you say that. Certainly in the press, you weren’t portrayed as someone who was a truth seeker.
Mr. Patel: The press—that was a part I wasn’t expecting. You go to Congress, the members of Congress are in the press. That’s their thing. Staffers are never in the press. Rightly so, there’s just an agreement across Congress [that] you don’t talk about staffers. You talk about the senator or the congressman, and what the committee and what they’re doing, but you don’t talk about staffers. When my name got outed by the Democrats, the first article, I think, called me a “genocidal dictator.” It’s a little off-putting.
Mr. Jekielek: It seems perhaps a little bit of hyperbole, whatever you might have done.
Mr. Patel: Perhaps a bit harsh but I think by then, I was starting to realize, they knew I was leading the investigation and they didn’t like the things we were actually uncovering, which was more and more towards intentional malfeasance, abuse of the FISA court, abuse by the FBI, and abuse by DOJ. That’s to say, some people, very small number of people at DOJ and the FBI did this stuff, [and] not the vast majority of folks that I used to work with who are just awesome people and some of the best work I ever did. I guess since I was the guy uncovering it, the media felt it OK to forget all the work I had done to that point.
Mr. Jekielek: I’m aware of some reporting that Catherine Herridge did a while back about just some contentious moments that you had with Rod Rosenstein.
Mr. Patel: There were many because he has a terrible temper, and it was witnessed by more than just me. It’s not like I’m making stuff up. But the one that you’re probably referring to is when we had a meeting in House Intel spaces with Chairman Nunes; the director of the FBI, Chris Ray; Rod Rosenstein who was effectively the attorney general; and a couple of other folks. Devin and I were talking about the witnesses we wanted to bring in who are still employed at the FBI and DOJ, and Rod Rosenstein basically lost it, flew off the handles and started screaming at us, and saying, “If you’re going to investigate us, I’m going to investigate you, and I’m going to subpoena your records.”
Devin and I were, one, just shocked that the attorney general is threatening to investigate the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and his staffer for doing their constitutional oversight and being professional about it, and two, why is he yelling at us? If he has a disagreement, why is this guy screaming? On top of that, did he just say he’s going to subpoena our records, which he did? He’s going to subpoena the United States Congress for what exactly?
So it was just this rant that made no sense; had no basis in fact. Every time he did that, which he did more than once, we knew our investigation was going in the right direction, so we kept going.
Mr. Jekielek: There were quite a few articles that came out about you. Very few flattering ones. What was the cost of that to you?
Mr. Patel: Personally, having been a public defender for eight years, I would tell you, I’ve been called far worse by much better. You just do the job. The mission matters more than that nonsense. What I did care about was, I have a huge family and a big family name, and like everybody else, they’re proud of their heritage and their community. And they were using that name to castigate me and my family, and I just found that profoundly unfair, especially since none of it was true.
Now, what I would piece together later was, they were basically doing to me what Fusion GPS, Steele, the DNC, and Hillary Clinton campaign did to Trump. They just basically made stuff up and jammed in information that they made up to fit a narrative that they wanted to be true. With Trump, they wanted him to have colluded with Russia and Putin and raked the election. With me, they wanted me to be this evil, untruthful [person].
At that time, I started getting tied to President Trump who I’ve never met or spoken to, by the way. I just came out of four years of the Obama administration, being a terrorism prosecutor and served in a civilian DOD. I thought it was shocking for them to say that I was a partisan, after a couple of months of being on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating. You say you started hearing from family members?
Mr. Patel: My family’s awesome. They were just, “We know you’re doing great work.” My family is Democrat, Republican, libertarian, whatever. I’m an Indian American, have a massive family, they’re just all around the world. They’ve just been incredibly supportive. They didn’t care what the articles were saying; they knew me, and I just felt bad that they had to read that.
I’m sure they get pestered with it by folks around the community saying, “That’s your kid,” or “That’s your nephew,” or “You know this guy, you’re friends with him,” to “Look at him, they call him Torquemada”—that’s the guy that killed 10,000 people during the Spanish Inquisition. So that’s unfortunate. I can take it but there’s no need for them to be put through that.
Mr. Jekielek: We were talking offline. You told me that you’re first generation. Just like I’m first generation Canadian, you’re first generation American. I’m working on being first generation American too. Where did your family come from? What’s the background?
Mr. Patel: We’re obviously Indian Americans, but the quick story is my parents were born and raised in East Africa. My dad in Uganda; my mom in Tanzania. A couple of generations ago, a large swath of the Indian community went to East Africa to work on the railroads for the British, so that’s why there’s a big population there. But then Idi Amin came to power in the 1970s in Uganda. He was an actual genocidal dictator, and my dad had to flee Uganda, and he went to Toronto first where they were giving visas. A couple of years later, he met my mom. They got married, moved down to New York, and started a family.
Mr. Jekielek: Why America?
Mr. Patel: If you asked my father, which I have, he thinks it’s literally the greatest place in the world. If you ask him why, he said that they were pretty poor growing up in Uganda, really poor. He was able to flee a genocidal dictator that wanted to kill him and his family and his friends. He was able to bring his whole family over to Canada and then New York. He was basically able to go from zero to putting a family and a house up, which they had never had of their own, and send their kids and family to school, build a community, bring their values over here, fold them over into America’s values, and create this really cool experience for us to grow up in. He said, where else am I going to do that? America is the only place you can do it.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s amazing because I think you were the first minority person to hold a number of very high level posts.
Mr. Patel: I think this will shock people. One, I spent more time in the Obama administration than the Trump’s, which is just, I think, funny, in retrospect. I’m the first person of color to run counterterrorism for any White House, I’m the first person of color to be the number two in the Intelligence Community at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and I’m the first minority to be the chief of staff for the Department of Defense. That all happened under President Trump.
Mr. Jekielek: Dad must be pretty proud at this point.
Mr. Patel: I think so. He’s been awesome. The whole family, my mom, my dad, and the extended family, don’t really get that involved in politics, and so they’re not up to speed on a lot of the stuff we work on. My dad thinks, “Where else could you have done this? My son is in the Oval Office with the president.” When I’m at home and I’m getting phone calls from President Trump, my dad thinks that’s hilarious and awesome.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s jump back to the process of the investigation now. You were going through this process of interviewing all of these various witnesses and at the same time, you became aware that Fusion GPS had actually paid for the Steele dossier. This must have been quite the revelation for you.
Mr. Patel: It took a little bit of time to get there but what I told Devin was basically, Prosecution 101: follow the money. Once we went down the road of this investigation, I said, “Devin, somebody has to fork up money to pay for this stuff. No one’s just doing it out of their goodwill. So let’s follow the money, and it’s got to be a decent amount of money in order to put all this stuff together.” So we had a source who turned us onto a bank and basically said, “You might want to look here and look at their banking transactions to see if there’s a connection between Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele and the DNC somehow.”
So we started piecing that together and that’s about the time when I spent the summer convincing Devin to give me a subpoena. From my background, I’d say, “Just give me a subpoena,” and I’d issue like 1000 a case. Devin said, “Kash, I don’t think you understand. Before you got to House Intel committee, the committee issued 1 subpoena in its history.” During my tenure—I think this is right—we issued 17. It was a big deal and this was the first one. I learned that as I went. We had to go to the speaker and get all the approvals and convince them that we were on the right path.
I basically told Devin, “If I’m wrong, you can just fire me. No big deal.” He gave it to me and we didn’t get the results right away. What we got was Fusion [GPS] telling us, we’re taking you to federal court because we don’t want you to have that subpoena power over us. That’s when I knew we had hit it. But it would be a couple more months of fighting in federal court to actually see the information.
Narration: It became clear to me that Kash viewed obstacles as clues. The greater the resistance, the more he knew he was digging in the right place. Over the next few months, they would make a number of startling discoveries Kash said, including the role of Nellie Ohr, the wife of high ranking DOJ official Bruce Ohr. She was hired by Fusion GPS to work on the dossier on Trump.
They also figured out the money trail. The DNC and Clinton campaign paid over $160,000 to Christopher Steele to try to dig up dirt on Trump’s ties to Russia, through the law firm Perkins Coie and research firm Fusion GPS. In December 2017, then FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe admitted in a closed door interview under oath that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISA court if the Steele dossier had not existed.
Mr. Patel: I knew that, but to get him as the Deputy Director of the FBI to admit that—that was a classified interview at the time. I was like, “Okay, there’s all this stuff, Devin. We have got to figure out a way to get this out. Not at some report in the back end, but let’s figure out a way to get it rolling.” So that’s that time period. Then we get to the Nunes memo in January.
Mr. Jekielek: January of 2018.
Mr. Patel: Yes.
Mr. Jekielek: If all hell hadn’t broken loose yet, then it all really broke loose.
Mr. Patel: Yes, then it was game on because we figured out under the rules of the House Intel Committee that there was a way to release classified information if it met certain requirements. This material met those requirements while safeguarding sources and methods, which we were able to do. While we were quietly running that process, obviously, on our side of the investigation, we wanted to make sure that memo was bulletproof.
So all we put in the memo were excerpts from people’s under oath, interviews, and information that we gleaned from the FBI and DOJ’s own documents. Those were the only things we put in the Nunes memo because we didn’t want it to be something that we put inflamed rhetoric behind. That’s why it reads kind of bland, but that’s how we set it up.
Mr. Jekielek: It wasn’t treated as bland, however.
Mr. Patel: Yes, I guess not. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone this. We have this amazing team who had figured out all the legal gymnastics and ethical gymnastics to get us there. I was just busy writing it with my colleagues. What I said was, “Okay, let’s also be a little strategic about this, because if we write one, they’re going to want to write one, which is okay.”
I said, “Let’s bait them into it. Let’s not tell them yet. We’ll follow the rules and inform them at a committee hearing,” which we did. Then we gave them the memo. They were shocked that we had been working on this thing. In that same hearing or the one afterward, our members, rightly so, said, “You guys write your own memo, and we’ll vote it out for you, too.” Adam Schiff took the bait and put so much more information in his memo than we did in ours, because we knew we would be able to use that information later and prove how wrong they were. It would just take a little bit of time. So that was the strategy behind it.
Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating. So how did you use it?
Mr. Patel: Just to give you an example, our memo was maybe four pages, theirs was 14, with footnotes and all this stuff. They would put all this information in there like, “How dare you attack Bruce?” Or, “Who is this DOJ official who had nothing to do with it?” Well, actually, you’re wrong. His wife was paid $50,000. Bruce Ohr turned out to be the cutout for the FBI when they fired Christopher Steele.
That’s just one example of how we used the information that they put in their memo against them, to show that what they were writing was actually incorrect. And we were able to prove it. We were also able to do that with the origins of informing the FISA court [about] what had and hadn’t been disclosed to them. We were able to use a lot of information from there to say that the FISA court, in fact, had not been told of the relationship between Fusion GPS, Steele, and the DNC.
Mr. Jekielek: Right, because you would think the FISA court might have different thoughts about the evidence.
Mr. Patel: Of course. Because what I try to tell people is, to the FISA court or whatever court—a search warrant is a search warrant—give your probable cause. That’s it. But when you’re going after a search warrant based on a source, you have to disclose to the court its credibility and bias.
The one thing we found in one of those shocking statements in the documents that we finally pulled out of the FBI was Christopher Steele had admitted to the FBI that he, I forget the exact quote, hated Donald Trump and wanted him not to be president. That’s fine. You’re entitled to that. But if that’s your source, then you need to disclose that statement to the court and say, “We’re using this source. This is what he has to say about one of the bigger targets of our investigation.” Then you explain why you still think he’s credible. Anyway, they didn’t do any of that. They just withheld it. Then way later on, we would be proven right by the Inspector General in his report.
Mr. Jekielek: In that report, we learned about at least one, Kevin Kline Smith.
Mr. Patel: Yes, in the IG report.
Mr. Jekielek: At this point, Kevin Kline Smith remains the one person who was seen as culpable to some extent in all of this.
Mr. Patel: Yes, he’s an FBI lawyer who doctored an email and then presented that information to the [inaudible]. That’s about as bad as it gets—just so you can convince a court that we need a search warrant. That’s not supposed to happen here in the U.S. system of justice. That happens in banana republics. We knew that if he had done it, it’s not like this guy was a lone wolf. But we weren’t the Department of Justice. We couldn’t bring that sort of investigation and prosecution. We were just hoping that DOJ would act.
Mr. Jekielek: You’re saying you don’t think he was a lone wolf.
Mr. Patel: I don’t think you can put together the sequence of events that happened and have a Fusion GPS, an Associate Deputy Attorney General and Bruce Ohr at the Justice Department, his wife, the FBI, Christopher Steele, $160,000, $10 million from Perkins Coie, all of that come together in one place for the sole purpose of setting up the Trump campaign so it looks like they colluded with Russia to rig a U.S. presidential election. I don’t think one FBI lawyer is capable of doing that on his own. No.
Mr. Jekielek: What do you make of the fact that there is only one person that has been charged or found guilty?
Mr. Patel: Personally, for someone who worked at DOJ, it’s part of the reason I left, the lack of internal accountability for when prosecutors breach the trust, the public trust that they’ve been bestowed with. The most common example is Brady violations—exculpatory evidence. We found that time and again in the Russiagate investigation that the FISA court was not told of exculpatory evidence as it related to multiple individuals involved in that FISA package.
It’s infuriating. How can they do that and ask the American public to trust them to supervise the accountability over the American public, but we can’t hold them accountable when they intentionally breach the trust that they were given? It’s unfortunate, and I hope there’s more, but I don’t know.
Mr. Jekielek: Former U.S. Attorney Durham is still playing this role of Special Counsel, looking into the origins of the investigation. That has not concluded.
Mr. Patel: I have no insight into the status of that investigation. Personally, if I was at the DOJ still, there are numerous individuals I would recommend be charged for their behavior during the whole Russiagate investigation, individuals who are both in government and also in the private sector. But that’s for them to decide. I hope he does because it’s the one thing that really separates us from almost the rest of the world, our ability to hold even our own officials at the highest levels accountable when they break the law. I’m hoping we get there.
Narration: Kash’s story doesn’t end with his investigations at the House Intelligence Committee. He would later head to the White House under Ric Grennell, when Grennell was appointed Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI). While there, Kash pushed forward the declassification of numerous documents, transcripts, and text messages, so the American public could finally see it all for themselves.
Mr. Patel: I had been at the NSC [National Security Council] for maybe a year, total. At the time they had gotten rid of Dan Coats. There was an acting DNI in there and they removed him. Then President Trump made Ric Grenell acting director until John Ratcliffe could be confirmed. Then my good friend Ric Grennell called me and said, “Hey, I got the job.” I said, “I know, we recommended you and we’re ecstatic.” And he said, “Well, there’s one condition, you’re coming with me.” I said, “No, I’m not. I like it here.” And I lost because it was the president and him versus me. We joke about that now. It was a great four months over there at DNI, running the IC.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s very interesting because this is where you actually got to go back to this investigation that you had worked on in the House Committee.
Mr. Patel: Yes, talk about best laid plans, me ending up at DNI overseeing the IC. We were able to do some amazing, substantive intelligence community work that helped advance President Trump’s national security agenda. That was awesome. We also trimmed the place down, because why spend taxpayer dollars on slots that have not been filled in 4500 days and things like that. But since we were there, I was like, “Why don’t we just do some declassifying that I know had been hanging over from my time at House Intel, namely, the transcripts?” All of our transcripts still hadn’t been released yet. Actually, maybe two of them were released before that, but the rest weren’t. So Ric said, “Yes, let’s do it.”
Mr. Jekielek: But it wasn’t just the transcripts that you chose to declassify.
Mr. Patel: Yes. We went back and I knew that there was a slew of text messages that had yet to be declassified. There were FBI, DOJ documents that had yet to be declassified, or had heavy redactions and we wanted to remove some more of the redactions. So we were able to get out a lot of documents during that time. This is the one thing that we were always attacked with, “You do this and sources are going to die. You’re going to ruin relationships with foreign governments. You’re going to kill the way we look at this target set, and we’re never going to be able to do it again.” Shockingly, to them, none of that ever happened after any declassification.
All that was shown was embarrassment and malfeasance by individuals working in the government at certain points in time. That’s why we fought so hard, and continue this fight to this day, because every time we peel it back, we show somebody else didn’t perform the duty they undertook to do.
Mr. Jekielek: What would you say was the most important declassification at that time? We can talk about more than one.
Mr. Patel: I thought the transcripts were instrumental because the American public could finally read them for themselves and say, “Oh, that’s what that person said under oath to this line of questioning. ” Black and white, couldn’t be easier. The text messages, we got some more detailed text messages between Strzok and Page and that back and forth, so that was good. We got more of the McCabe memo out, some of the stuff on the 25th amendment meeting with Rod Rosenstein, that came out. All of these documents came out that we had known about for some time, but people could just now start reading them on their own. Those are some of the more important ones.
Mr. Jekielek: What do you think Crossfire Hurricane, based on everything that you can talk about, what do you think it was all about?
Mr. Patel: It started out as someone trying to look into whether or not there was any foul play, which at its premise is what the FBI is supposed to do and the IC supposed to do. I think at its origin that’s probably where it started. Where it metastasized to, very quickly by a select few people, was a vehicle by which we are going to target a presidential campaign and we’re going to allow the other campaign to fund the information we’d inject into the intelligence community and into the FISA court, so that we can surveil someone on that [presidential] campaign and maybe get information to dirty him up or take them down. That just crosses so many lines of wrong and illegal behavior that I’m not sure how we ever let it get that far.
Mr. Jekielek: From what you know, how many people were actually surveilled?
Mr. Patel: At least six that I know of, and when I say surveil, that’s all different types of surveillance. But if we use that term generally, I’d say probably about six, and it was just disclosed that even Sam Clovis was one of the individuals. I’d known that for three-plus years, but we couldn’t talk about it.
It would be beneficial to the American public for the FBI to disclose who they surveilled in this Trump orbit, and more importantly, how. The lengths they were willing to go just to try to get a narrative to become true—which is never the purpose of an investigation at the Department of Justice—you’re supposed to follow an investigation and see if there’s a crime. You’re not supposed to try to come up with a political narrative and have the ends justify the means.
Mr. Jekielek: In all of this along the way, did you ever feel like you were getting in over your head?
Mr. Patel: No, I don’t think we ever thought that we weren’t going to be able to rise to the occasion because we had such a great team. Many people individually probably felt like, “Man, this is a lot of work for a few people.” And it was. We were there days, nights, holidays, weekends. We worked straight through the Christmas break, just to get it done, because there was no one else to do it. But that’s partly what we signed up for. If you asked some of my other teammates, they were drafted into it. They were there on the committee and could add value. It got tough at times, but we were able to get through.
Mr. Jekielek: Do you feel like we’re going to get closure? When I say we, I mean the American people.
Mr. Patel: Yes, for me closure is synonymous with accountability. So we either have that accountability in the form of the only place that can give it, which is a Department of Justice indictment, or we don’t. It’s that binary. If you want closure in the complete sense, that’s the way to do it. Look, we got 14 individuals fired or they resigned early or retired early as a result of our investigation on House Intel, because of the malfeasance we showed they committed. You’re talking about the levels of the director of the FBI, the deputy director of the FBI on down.
So there’s some measure of accountability in that from a congressional standpoint, because that’s what congressional oversight is supposed to do. But for the American public, and quite frankly, me, there’s no accountability unless you can exact the same punishments over those that committed this conduct internally, as they do to others externally.
Mr. Jekielek: So is this going to happen?
Mr. Patel: I’m not in charge. I’ve never was, and I’m out of government. It would just be a guess, but I don’t know. I’d say it’s 50-50.
Mr. Jekielek: There’s another realm of accountability that you’re pursuing. You’ve got a number of defamation lawsuits out.
Mr. Patel: You asked me earlier, Jan, what impact it had on me and the impact of the avalanche of articles that were written about me over the last four years that puts you in a light that’s not accurate. People read this—people being future employers, people in the business community, people in the legal community, people in government. Over time, that erodes their confidence in me and falsely so.
At a certain point, you got to fight back. If it’s one article here and there, and it’s just a little missive, it’s one thing. But if they’re challenging the core values that you carried in your profession, which is being truthful, having accountability, and having the government answer to the people, then you have to fight back. So that’s what I’ve chosen to do in court.
Mr. Jekielek: In this whole process related to exploring the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, what was the high moment in this process for you?
Mr. Patel: When you are able to show some of your investigative hypotheses to be true, you regain a lot of credibilities, at least with a certain portion of the public. That happened when we showed the public the malfeasance with the Steele dossier and the FISA court. We gained even more when we showed that we were right when we told you Fusion GPS and the DNC and the Hillary campaign funded this thing. We got it right there.
Things like the Nunez memo helped us put a lot of it together. Ultimately, our report, for the majority of the time and for Republicans, is a really impressive document in the abuses that occurred not only during the presidential election but how Russia interfered and what we can do to better protect ourselves in the future, which is ultimately the goal of this entire process, besides accountability. Let’s not have this happen to us again. So I think we set it up pretty well. But I don’t know if anyone’s read it.
Mr. Jekielek: Certainly, some of our reporters have read it. I haven’t read the whole thing. What’s really interesting, you mentioned that the report actually does chronicle how Russia did interfere, which isn’t typically what people think of when they think of that report,
Mr. Patel: We outline the very specific things that we were tasked to do—find out whether Russia interfered, how they interfered, who were the players, and how do we fix it? We did a good job addressing those pillars.
Mr. Jekielek: What about the low point?
Mr. Patel: Getting attacked by the media over and over and over again, sort of gets old and can get you down, but you learn to move beyond that. Having administration officials threaten to investigate you because you’re doing your job and they’re not doing theirs is tough—a low point in the sense that this is going to be hard, but we keep going. As Devin said, “That’s when you know you’re over the target.” So if you stop then, then no one is going to know, and you’re not doing the job you signed up to do.
Mr. Jekielek: There’s still a sizable portion of the American public that isn’t aware of what happened.
Mr. Patel: Yes, that’s right.
Mr. Jekielek: What are your thoughts about that?
Mr. Patel: It’s up to you. You can’t force the American public to read reports and participate in the democratic process, just take an interest in what we’re doing on the hill, or what we’re doing at DOJ, or wherever. The one good thing to come from this entire Russiagate hoax is that it was a big civics lesson for much of the U.S. populace that had never bothered to even know the difference between the two legislators in Congress before. A lot more people paid attention and educated themselves on how our system of government works and that was a good thing.
Mr. Jekielek: Do you think, though, that some people might feel a bit disillusioned with it?
Mr. Patel: Yes, it’s hard not to. All you have to do to speak to the other half of the populace that won’t acknowledge this happened is to flip the script and say: What if the RNC had paid some former foreign national intelligence officer to dig up information on Hillary Clinton, and then took that information and went to the Department of Justice and said, “Hey, I think they’re conspiring with the foreign government, let’s get a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant on one of Hillary Clinton’s campaign staffers or campaign people.” When you put it in that light, it sounds shockingly impossible to happen in the U.S. But that’s what happened. So sometimes I try to phrase it like that. If people want to be disillusioned with it, that’s fine, but we proved it happened.
Narration: To finish off this episode with Kash Patel, I thought that I would do it on a personal note. We’ve gotten a lot of mail, both from our viewers and from our readers, that they’re feeling a bit disillusioned at this time in history. I wanted to share a bit of something personal to me. My father-in-law, my wife’s father, survived the Holocaust.
We actually went to Poland and to Germany a few years back and took a film crew with us. He had been invited to talk to some students, some young people about his experience, and an amazing, amazing story ensued. Something about Manny is that he went to the U.S., went to Canada, made it through and made something really incredible with his life, aside from a beautiful daughter who I’m very grateful for. He became an entrepreneur and became a publicist. He basically tried to milk every last bit from his life and had an incredible, incredible life.
We made a film about him, about his experience, how he made it through the Holocaust, his attitude, how he communicated with these young people in Poland and Germany, and in general, his philosophy of life. That’s something that might really, really resonate with all of you out there. It’s actually playing at the Garden City Film Festival. It’s online, you can look in my Twitter feed, I have the information there. You can also look on findingmanny.com about where to get tickets. That’s next Sunday, the 28th of March, the Garden City Film Festival online. Enjoy the film and be sure to send me a note about what you think.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.