Former Trump administration aide Kash Patel has been offered a grant of immunity for his testimony before a federal grand jury investigating Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents recovered earlier this year at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago, Florida estate, according to media reports.
Patel, who had previously invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination when called to testify in the case, had claimed that Trump declassified the documents before they were moved to Florida at the end of his presidency.
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An FBI search of the Trump property on Aug. 8 resulted in the seizure of 11,000 government documents, including more than 100 records marked as classified.
The immunity agreement was first disclosed by the Wall Street Journal.
Patel could not be reached for comment.
A staunch Trump loyalist, Patel served as chief of staff to former acting Department of Defense Secretary Christopher Miller during the closing stage of the Trump administration. Trump designated Patel as a representative for dealing with National Archives records pertaining to his administration.
In a Breitbart interview posted May 5, Patel said; “Trump declassified whole sets of materials in anticipation of leaving government that he thought the American public should have the right to read themselves,” Breitbart reported.
“The White House counsel failed to generate the paperwork to change the classification markings, but that doesn’t mean the information wasn’t declassified. I was there with President Trump when he said, ‘We are declassifying this information.’”
Experts say constitutional powers authorizing a president to declassify documents don’t apply to records classified as top-secret or higher – the classifications stamped on many of the documents found at Mar-a-Lago.
The heavily redacted FBI affidavit for the search warrant of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida cited Patel’s comments to Breitbart.
Although Trump and Patel have claimed that Trump declassified the records in question, current lawyers for the former president have not raised that argument during the current court battle.
Trump, however, has continued to stoke the argument that the records, some bearing the markings as some of the government’s most sensitive, had been declassified even if he had not engaged in a formal review.
In a September interview with Fox News, Trump said he had the authority, as president, to declassify documents “even by thinking about it.”
“There doesn’t have to be a process, as I understand it,” Trump said. “If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified, even by thinking about it.”