In the first impeachment-related libel case, a White House official is suing Politico for $25 million in a suit that also lays out blistering accusations against the man heading up the Democrats’ impeachment effort, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA).
In a lawsuit filed in Virginia Monday, National Security Council Senior Counterterrorism Director Kash Patel is suing Politico, Politico owner Robert Allbritton, and Politico reporter and MSNNBC contributor Natasha Bertrand for $25 million in damages for allegedly publishing libelous claims about him related to the President Trump-Ukraine controversy.
“While Politico is the nominal target of the suit, it represents an aggressive attempt by a presidential aide to put Adam Schiff’s handling of the impeachment inquiry itself on trial. Describing the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee as ‘a demagogue with an axe to grind against the president,’ Patel portrays Schiff as running roughshod over rules and interviewing witnesses ‘to create click-bait headlines and soundbites to feed to his co-conspirators and media sympathizers,” Fox News’s Howard Kurtz notes.
At the center of the suit is an October 23 story written by Bertrand for Politico titled, “Nunes Protege Fed Ukraine Info to Trump.” The headline refers to Patel, who once worked for former House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) on the committee’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. The story reads in part:
A protégé of Republican Rep. Devin Nunes was among those passing negative information about Ukraine to President Donald Trump earlier this year, fueling the president’s belief that Ukraine was brimming with corruption and interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Democrats.
Kashyap Patel, a longtime Nunes staffer who joined the White House in February, was so involved in the issue that at one point Trump thought he was in charge of Ukraine policy for the National Security Council, according to congressional testimony by Fiona Hill, the former senior director for European and Russian Affairs whose portfolio included Ukraine.
Hill’s testimony was described to POLITICO by a person with direct knowledge of her recent deposition, and who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the closed-door hearing. Hill declined to comment.
[…] Patel’s involvement demonstrates that the president had at least some support for the scheme from within the NSC, and has given House impeachment investigators yet another name to add to their witness list—a name they are already familiar with, given Patel’s previous work in Congress to discredit the Russia investigation.
The story’s claims about Hill’s testimony are based not on the official transcript but on what sources claimed she told investigators.
Patel’s lawsuit maintains that Patel has “never supplied any Ukraine ‘materials’ to the president” and had never communicated with the president on anything related to Ukraine before October 30. He filed the lawsuit after publicly denying the claims laid out in the Politico piece earlier this month.
Bertrand followed up that piece a week later with another anonymous source-based report on what an impeachment witness allegedly said, claiming in an Oct. 30 story that sources said NSC official Lt. Col. Alexander Vindma said Patel “‘misrepresented’ himself” to Trump “in an effort to involve himself further in Ukraine policy.”
Patel accuses Politico of failing to wait for confirmation about the claims in official transcripts, instead running reports based on sources selectively leaking information that proved to be false in order to promote a political agenda.
The lawsuit points to Schiff and his office as ultimately responsible for the leaking of misleading information to control the narrative surrounding Ukraine and Trump for political purposes. Politico, the suit alleges, “acted in concert” with Schiff and his aides in an attempt to “destroy” Patel’s reputation and promote Schiff’s “baseless Ukrainian quid pro quo hoax.”