Trump loyalist connected to Biden conspiracy theories is leading Pentagon transition

Trump loyalist connected to Biden conspiracy theories is leading Pentagon transition

Kash Patel, a Trump loyalist who was connected to efforts to spread conspiracy theories about Joe Biden, has been put in charge of the Pentagon transition effort and will oversee coordination with the incoming Biden-Harris administration, according to two US defense officials.

Patel, a former aide to Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, currently serves as chief of staff to Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller and while it is not unusual for someone in that job to take a leading role in the transition effort, the two defense officials told CNN that Patel will likely come under scrutiny from many inside the Pentagon who are watching to see how cooperative he may be with the Biden team.

That scrutiny stems from the fact that Patel was elevated to his current role as part of the recent purge of top Pentagon officials, which included President Donald Trump’s firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and his reputation as an ardent Trump loyalist who will continue to do whatever he can to further the President’s political agenda in the time remaining in office.

The House impeachment inquiry uncovered evidence connecting Patel, who was then working as an aide to Nunes, to the diplomatic back channel led by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, and the efforts to spread conspiracy theories about Joe Biden and coerce Ukraine into announcing an investigation of the former vice president.

He has also worked to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Patel, who most recently served as senior director for counterterrorism at the White House National Security Council, was elevated to serve as Miller’s chief of staff following Esper’s ouster earlier this month and has a “very close” working relationship with the newly installed acting defense secretary, an administration official previously told CNN.

But the move was part of a flurry of personnel changes at the Pentagon that have fueled concerns Trump is dislodging officials across the government and burrowing loyalists into agencies in a way that could make them difficult for Biden to remove next year.

Since coming to the Pentagon, Patel has overseen controversial decisions to withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Knowledgeable sources told CNN’s Jake Tapper earlier this month that the White House-directed purge at the Defense Department may have been motivated by the fact that Esper and his team were pushing back on a premature withdrawal from Afghanistan, which would be carried out before the required conditions on the ground were met.

And now that the Government Services Administration has formally acknowledged Biden’s election win, allowing the transition process to officially start, there are questions as to whether officials like Patel will fully cooperate with the incoming administration.

For the time being, the Department of Defense has said it has been contacted by the Biden-Harris team and “will begin immediately implementing our plan to provide support.”

“DoD is prepared to provide post-election services and support in a professional, orderly, and efficient manner that is befitting of the public’s expectation of the Department and our commitment to national security,” Pentagon spokesperson Sue Gough said in a statement.

Thomas Muir, the director of Washington Headquarters Services is providing the major DoD support to the transition while Patel heads the overall effort another defense official said.

Muir is expected to facilitate office space, communications and access to information.

A senior defense official said that prior to Patel overseeing the transition process, his predecessor, Esper’s chief of staff Jen Stewart, was in charge of the effort.