Kash Patel, a top adviser to former President Donald Trump who has been deeply involved in disputes over classified records Trump kept from his presidency, appeared recently before the federal grand jury looking into the handling of documents at Mar-a-Lago, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.
Patel spent several hours throughout the morning of October 13 before a grand jury at the US courthouse in Washington, DC. But it’s not clear if Patel answered the grand jury’s questions or declined to respond citing his Fifth Amendment protections, which is within his rights.
He is one of a handful of advisers around Donald Trump after his presidency who could have legal risk related to the Mar-a-Lago situation, according to court records and the sources, though it’s unclear if he is a target of the Justice Department probe. Patel served as a national security and defense official during the administration, and this summer became one of Trump’s designees to interact with the National Archives and the Justice Department as both agencies have tried to repossess classified records Trump kept from his presidency.
He has claimed in media interviews he personally witnessed Trump declassifying records before he left the presidency, and has argued he should be able to release classified information.
Lawyers for Patel declined to comment for this story. He has not been charged with any crime.
CNN spotted Patel walking the halls of the federal courthouse mid-morning last Thursday, remaining in the grand jury area for several hours until about 1 p.m. One of his attorneys, Stanley Woodward, ducked out of the ongoing Oath Keepers trial where he is a defense attorney for another defense client to escort Patel, wearing a bold red plaid jacket, down from the grand jury meeting area and out of the building. When asked at the courthouse by CNN, Woodward refused to say what Patel’s matter was about, and only confirmed that he represented the Trump adviser.
Patel also received a grand jury subpoena weeks ago for documents he had of any communications related to the handling of Trump records, according to another of the sources, but it’s not known if how he responded to that demand.
The latest activity behind closed doors reveals how the Justice Department continues to pursue a possible indictment in the Mar-a-Lago matter. The Patel grand jury appearance, especially, is indicative of how aggressive prosecutors are being as they continue to gather information about what has happened up to this point.
Other witnesses were subpoenaed to the grand jury looking at Mar-a-Lago over the past several months, including in a flurry of activity around the day of the FBI’s August search, one source said.
The Trump team is strategizing to respond to continued pressure from DOJ, including involving an under-seal court proceeding, to make sure all national security records are secured now and returned to the federal government, CNN reported on Wednesday.
Prosecutors have previously used a federal grand jury as a tool to subpoena documents being kept by Trump at Mar-a-Lago and to collect surveillance tapes of the property as part of the probe, and the existence of the grand jury is acknowledged in court filings from DOJ seeking to protect the investigation’s secrecy and the identity of witnesses.
Prosecutors have made clear in now-public court filings they are investigating both the mishandling of federal records, especially ones sensitive to national security and marked as classified, and criminal obstruction of justice as DOJ struggled to gain control of the records this year.
The Justice Department declined to comment.
Named in DOJ affidavit
The Justice Department made an atypical choice of citing Patel by name in their affidavit that secured the search warrant of the Florida beach club in August.
Patel is named in the document as having argued that Trump declassified records he kept from his time in the White House.
“I am aware of an article published in Breitbart on May 5, 2022 … which states that Kash Patel, who is described as a former US administration official, characterized as ‘misleading’ reports in other news organizations that NARA had found classified materials among records that FPOTUS provided to NARA from Mar-a-Lago” earlier this year, an FBI agent wrote in the affidavit. “Patel alleged that such reports were misleading because FPOTUS had declassified the materials at issue.”
In response to having his name in the court document, Patel accused the Justice Department of intentionally jeopardizing his safety. “Brown Lives Matter. These gangsters are on notice,” Patel, who is Indian American, wrote on the Trump-backed social media platform Truth Social in late August.
The FBI agent’s assessment of the significance of Patel’s comments is redacted. Since then, the DOJ has said that the argument about Trump declassifying records is a red herring and immaterial to their case.
The investigation is only a fraction of the legal complications escalating around Trump and his advisers.
At the same time Patel was appearing before the grand jury about Mar-a-Lago, a second grand jury and set of prosecutors were assembled, working on the investigation into January 6 and the efforts to obstruct Joe Biden’s win of the presidency. That grand jury secured testimony from a top adviser to then-Vice President Mike Pence, Marc Short, according to CNN reporting. Short and Patel were occupied at the courthouse at the same time.
Patel previously was subpoenaed and questioned by the House select committee investigating the January 6 US Capitol insurrection. It’s unclear if Patel has spoken with another Washington, DC, grand jury investigating January 6 as well.
CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz contributed to this report.