There was much to unpack in the January 6 Committee’s 51-page contempt report on former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, but many have singled out one troubling line in particular:
“Mr. Meadows spoke with Kashyap Patel, who was then chief of staff to Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, ‘non-stop’ throughout the day on January 6.”
This fact was reported back in January 2021 by Adam Ciralsky, who had the foresight to ask to be embedded with Miller during the final weeks of the Trump presidency. On its surface, the fact is worrisome enough, because it shows the White House, through Meadows, was in direct touch with high ranking civilian officials at the Pentagon including Kash Patel on the day of the attack, and still the National Guard was held back for hours while the attack progressed.
This information may prove even more critical after an explosive report emerged just a few days ago, in which leaders of the National Guard accused Army officials of outright lying to protect those who had held the National Guard back from deploying that day. The Pentagon had produced a March 2021 internal report, obtained by Politico, that summarized its defense against the charge that it took too long to respond on January 6. The report claims the Guard describes multiple communications between top Army officials and the Guard’s then-commander, Maj. Gen. William Walker. But the thing is, those conversations never took place, according to Walker. On the call with the Army was also a top lawyer for the National Guard, Col. Earl Matthews, who calls the report “whole fiction” and has accused two Army officials of lying to Congress about their role in the response.
Matthews claims the two army officials, one of whom happens to be the brother of disgraced former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, said on a call on January 6 that they opposed the move because of the “optics of having uniformed military personnel deployed to the U.S. Capitol.” They took this position despite the pleas by then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund for help for his overwhelmed officers. But the “optics” argument could be a big red-herring. According to another document obtained by Politico, at 2:37pm the Army officials “recommended the DC Guard be on standby” rather than immediately deploy, and at 2:41pm, just four minutes later, reiterated that order “until the request has been routed” to the Army Secretary (who was incommunicado or unreachable for most of the afternoon) and to Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller. That left things hanging without authorization, and as a result deployment was delayed for hours.
So what does Kash Patel, who was chief of staff to Miller, have to do with this? And why was Meadows purportedly on the phone with Patel “non-stop” on January 6? To understand the dynamics here, we have to remember why Miller was the “Acting” Defense Secretary and realize the role Patel really had.
On November 10, 2020, Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who had been critical of the visuals Trump had insisted upon during the “clearing” of protesters in D.C., where Trump had insisted military officials walk through the protest zone with him after. The firings swept up other key officials, including Esper’s chief of staff (whom Patel replaced) and the undersecretary for Defense Intelligence. But why fire Pentagon officials during a presidential transition with just two months to go? Was this just another spiteful vendetta by Trump?
Here’s a key, often missed point, originally reported by USA Today: Trump’s own White House officials made clear at the time of the firings that Trump wanted his own team at the Pentagon should he prevail with his legal challenges to the election. We now know that those “legal challenges” included a conspiracy to overturn the election by all manner of means, including alternate slates of electors from swing states, extra-Constitutional actions by Vice President Pence, and Georgia state officials “finding” extra votes for Trump. And here’s where Patel comes in: Miller was basically assigned Patel, who was an ardent foe of the alleged “Deep State” and a loyalist who operated like a Trump political officer keeping tabs on Miller. (As an added twist that really surprises no one, Patel had been a senior legal counsel to Congressman Devin Nunes when Nunes chaired the House Intelligence Committees in 2017-18.)
The shadowing of Miller was so bad, according to a national security official who spoke with Ciralsky while he was embedded, that it wasn’t really clear whether Miller, rather than Patel, was actually in charge. “If I was writing your headline,” the official advised Ciralsky, “it would be ‘Who really is the Secretary of Defense? Chris Miller? Kash Patel? Ezra Cohen? Or [Chairman] Mark Milley? I don’t know how to answer that, frankly. The scuttlebutt is that Miller is the good guy who’s the frontman and it’s Cohen and Patel who are calling all the shots.” A half dozen Pentagon officials agreed, according to reporting by the Washington Post, saying that Miller was a figurehead and Patel was actually the key civilian figure at the White House in Trump’s final two months—which would explain why Meadows was on the phone with him and not Chris Miller “non-stop” on January 6.
That might also lead investigators to revisit the infamous Miller letter of January 4, in which Miller ordered that the D.C. National Guard could not be deployed without his personal authorization. Whose idea was this, truly? Did Patel have a hand in it?
The Committee will want to know why such an unusual order would come down just days before the attack on the Capitol. Some in the military apparently genuinely feared that troops on the ground dealing with civil chaos could be used by Trump as a pretext for seizing power. After all, according to Ciralsky, Trump had initially wanted 10,000 troops ready to deploy, ostensibly to protect pro-Trump ralliers against anti-protestors who never materialized. This comports with an email noted by the Committee in which Mark Meadows said the National Guard would be present “to protect pro Trump people” and that “many more would be available on standby.” But like General Milley, who was so concerned about Trump’s state of mind that he called his counterpart in China to safeguard against an unintended military escalation, these officials couldn’t express their fears aloud without being labeled as part of the “deep-state” allegedly working to undermine the former president.
Or was the January 4 letter somehow part of a more sinister conspiracy to withhold the National Guard long enough for the rioters to breach the Capitol and stop the electoral count? Mark Meadows and Kash Patel might know the answer to that question. While they claim they already had received authority to deploy troops, and that they neither tried nor needed to contact Trump to get his sign-off for that on January 6, another senior defense official remembered things very differently: “They couldn’t get through. They tried to call him.” It’s entirely possible, according to Ciralsky, that Trump was “stiff-arming some of his top officials because he was, in effect, siding with the insurrectionists and their cause of denying Biden’s victory.”
So what exactly did Meadow and Patel discuss in their “non-stop” talks on January 6? Although Mark Meadows is now seeking to stonewall the Committee, Kash Patel has apparently been cooperating with it, and the Committee likely knows far more than it is letting on, even apart from its explosive public allegations in its contempt report. If the facts were to show that the National Guard deployment was delayed intentionally, either by Pentagon officials or by Trump himself, not because of “optics” but because someone actually wanted the rioters to succeed unimpeded, that would be a game-changer to the entire investigation. It would tie the growing evidence of conspiracy within the White House to overturn the election directly to the violence that occurred during the attack on the Capitol.
What we already know is that two top Army officials are accused by top Guard officials of lying to Congress about what really went on, that an internal Army report is trying to shift the narrative about the delay in deployment falsely, and that Meadows is suddenly refusing to cooperate with the Committee and is willing to land in very big legal trouble for his about-face. That’s already a lot of smoke—indicating a big fire likely is somewhere nearby.
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