New York, Oct 31 (IANS) An Indian-American White House official has been caught in the crossfire of internal politics arising from the Ukraine controversy that has engulfed President Donald Trump in an impeachment.
The expertise of Kashyap Patel, the National Security Council’s (NSC) senior Director of counter-terrorism, on Ukraine has been questioned by another NSC official, Lt Col Alexander Vindman, during the impeachment inquiry hearings, Politico reported on Wednesday.
The sniping brings to the open the conflicts inside the Trump administration between those like Patel, who are considered his loyalists, and those opposed to him.
Vindman told the secret inquiry that Patel had “misrepresented” his expertise on Ukraine to Trump, Politico reported.
He said that had been prevented from participating in a briefing for Trump on Ukraine because the President believed Patel was the expert on that country instead of himself, Politico reported.
Vindman said that the NSC Senior Director for European and Russian affairs, Fiona Hill, told him that she and then-National Security Adviser John Bolton felt that his presence at the briefing would create “an uncomfortable situation,” according to Politico.
The Washington Post also gave an account matching it in major details.
Politico had earlier reported that Hill testified before the impeachment inquiry that Trump thought Patel was in charge of Ukraine policy for the NSC.
Vindman, who was born in Ukraine and came to the US as a refugee when he was a child, is a decorated veteran of the Iraq war.
He was on the line listening to Trump’s phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in July during which he asked for help in investigating former Vice President Joe Biden’ son’s connections to a Ukrainian gas company and if his father had interfered in an investigation of the company.
Vindman has been hailed a hero by the Democrats and the media for his testimony against Trump.
He had asserted that Trump had undermined national security by asking Ukraine for a favour against the Bidens because that could undermine the bipartisan support for Kyiv.
While he said that he was not allowed to make some changes to the reconstruction of the Trump-Zelensky phone conversation that was made public, it did not appear from leaked accounts of his impeachment testimony that he had established that Trump had made the Ukrainian probe of the Bidens a condition for releasing aid, as has been alleged.
Vindman’s questioning of Patel’s competence gives and insight into internal politics of the Trump administration where officials are split between Trump loyalists and those whom he calls the members of the “Deep State” – a reference to the entrenched bipartisan Washington establishment that is ranged against him.
Patel is considered a Trump loyalist, having worked for the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, when it was controlled by the Republicans and David Nunes was its chair.
As an aide to Trump’s vociferous supporter Nunes, Patel raised questions credibility of the allegations against Trump of colluding with Russians that led to the protracted inquiry by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who ultimately did not find such collusion.
Patel was the principal author of a memo issued by Nunes that accused the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department of bias against Trump and of abusing laws to get warrants to conduct surveillance of a Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page.
The government could not find any grounds to prosecute Page.
Patel had earlier worked as a counter-terrorism prosecutor for the Justice Department.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)