One of Donald Trump’s most outspoken defenders, Kash Patel, who in interviews and on social media has launched blistering attacks against the FBI and repeatedly insisted Trump did nothing wrong in keeping a cache of allegedly classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate, recently said he is no longer talking about the matter.
“I’m close to the former president, and because there’s a lot of legal matters going on surrounding the Mar-a-Lago [case], I just haven’t commented on that publicly in months,” Patel said on a right-wing radio show Thursday when asked if Trump was likely to be charged for mishandling government secrets.
Patel visited Trump in Florida the day before, he said.
Declining to comment is rarely enlightening. But for Patel, who typically opines about a wide array of legal matters and regularly defends Trump on TV and radio, the move could reflect the delicate position he now finds himself in, as federal investigators look into whether Trump or any of his aides violated federal laws when hundreds of documents marked classified were allegedly taken to Mar-a-Lago, stored in unsecured locations and then never returned, even after the National Archives and Justice Department pressed Trump to return them.
According to his own accounts, Patel was part of a two-person team that was in near-daily contact with the National Archives at that time.
Nevertheless, in late September, Patel told another right-wing radio host that he was not publicly commenting on the FBI's investigation anymore because "we're working on some things with the former president."
"We've agreed to just leave it there for now," he said.
It's unclear exactly what Patel meant by that. ABC News asked an attorney with the firm representing him if Patel and Trump were coordinating their responses to questions about the case, including inquiries from investigators, but the attorney declined to comment.
On Aug. 9, the day after FBI agents raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate and found scores of documents marked classified, Patel issued a statement calling the raid “unlawful” and saying “corrupt government gangsters” had engaged in “the blatant weaponization of our government for political gain.”
A few weeks later, Patel said on a podcast that the FBI had committed "an act of evil" when it mentioned him by name in court documents, which cited his previous claims online that Trump had declassified any documents at Mar-a-Lago.
"They did it for political effect because they wanted to try to silence me and President Trump and everybody else," he said on Aug. 29. "But that will not have the effect that they've desired," he told listeners.
Within a month, Patel began telling those who asked about the case that he couldn't comment.
“I can’t [comment] because of ongoing legal matters,” Patel said on Thursday's radio show. “But I have put out a lot of statements before … [and] I hope to come back with you someday very soon and do a deep-dive on that.”
In another radio interview more than a month ago, when he was still responding to questions about the case, Patel predicted that even if the Justice Department doesn't end up indicting Trump, "they will try and indict people around him."
Specifically, Patel said, prosecutors might "get one of those people near him on a process crime."
"We're familiar with this routine," he added, seemingly alluding to the many Trump associates who in the past several years have been charged for allegedly lying to federal investigators or refusing to cooperate with an investigation.
Appearing before a federal grand jury last week, Patel reportedly refused to answer many questions from investigators, citing his Fifth Amendment rights protecting him from self-incrimination.
According to The New York Times, investigators specifically want Patel to testify about his past claims that Trump had already declassified documents found at Mar-a-Lago.
The Justice Department has noted in court documents that Trump's legal team has offered no evidence supporting such claims. Still, Patel insisted in an interview two months ago that “it’s incumbent upon the DOJ and FBI to show that this material was not declassified."
In June, in the midst of the FBI's criminal investigation, Trump announced that he had designated Patel as one of his official representatives to the National Archives.
According to Patel, his "sole purpose" in that role was "to go and identify documents that should be made public for the American people," but the National Archives came up with "a new excuse everyday" to keep him away.
"Some of these details will probably intertwine into the ongoing [investigation]," he said on a recent radio show.
Outspoken Trump ally Kash Patel goes mum as Mar-a-Lago probe progresses originally appeared on abcnews.go.com