The Pentagon over the weekend shot down an NBC News report that claimed Defense Secretary Chief of Staff Kash Patel has been blocking the Biden transition team from requested access to Pentagon officials and documents.
NBC News reported Friday that Patel was “blocking some career officials and experts from giving information about key defense issues to the transition team and telling political appointees to take the lead instead.” The report cited four anonymous current and former officials.
Senior defense officials said that accusation is unequivocally false.
“Unequivocally he has not blocked anyone,” a senior defense official told Breitbart News. “Kash has not been selecting individuals to do meetings.”
Another senior defense official said that contrary to what the media has reported, Patel does not run the transition work at the Pentagon. That work is led by bureaucrat Tom Muir, who has served in government since at least 2010. “Kash does not run the DOD transition. Tom does and is doing an outstanding job,” the official said.
The official added: “DOD has executed dozens of interviews and provided thousands of pages of documents to the Biden transition. The work has and will continue with full cooperation. We are far ahead of prior transitions. Just ask the [Biden transition team] and see if they say otherwise. They won’t.”
The NBC News report also alleged that Patel has “recast policy descriptions to include content that reflects favorably on Trump’s policies before the information is shared with the Biden transition” and “made it clear” that senior political officials would attend transition team meetings and briefings on significant policy issues, which was having a “chilling effect” on cooperation with the Biden team.
But the first senior defense official said, “Kash hasn’t touched a single request for information from the transition, he hasn’t edited or modified them, he hasn’t stepped in to prevent or refuse a single interview request. It’s the exact opposite, he’s been working to ensure that the DOD fulfills its statutory commitment and the business ethos of the department of ensuring that the transition is a success.”
During a press conference call on Saturday afternoon, senior defense officials said the DOD transition team has already completed 21 interviews requested by the Biden team and that 47 additional interviews are scheduled to take place this coming week.
And while the NBC News report alleged the Pentagon was withholding binders of documents and sending “iPads” instead, officials said the DOD transition team has provided over 1,500 pages of written materials via Microsoft Surface tablets.
NBC News characterized Patel as a “Trump loyalist” and a former Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) aide, omitting his lengthy resume in national security.
Patel has previously served as deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council, principal deputy to the Acting Director of National Intelligence, as a terrorism prosecutor at the Department of Justice, and began his career as a public defender.
GOP strategist and Donald Trump Jr. adviser Arthur Schwartz blasted the NBC News story in a tweet. There appeared to be no response from NBC News.
Hey @NBCNews. Where are @carolelee’s editors on this garbage story? Kash isn’t running transition — a career with an entire team is running it. It took me 5 min to find out that Kash hasn’t seen a single document that Biden gets. Is Carol lying or does she just suck at her job? pic.twitter.com/GMV4CDgWuH
— Arthur Schwartz (@ArthurSchwartz) December 5, 2020
Senior defense officials also disputed a Washington Post report that also published Friday. It alleged that the Biden transition team has not been able to engage with leaders at the Defense Department’s National Security Agency (NSA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and other military-run spy agencies. That report also cited current and former officials.
The senior defense officials on Saturday during the conference call said the Biden team’s requests were not properly submitted to the DOD transition team and that the issue has been since worked out and those meetings are scheduled for next week.
The senior defense officials blamed anonymous sources for trying to create friction in the process.
“I’m talking about anonymous sources who spent much of their day on Friday instead of working in good faith with the Department of Defense and set up meetings and move this incredibly important and timely transition along, they spent the day reaching out to a number of different reporters and planting stories that were not based in reality and were untrue,” one of the officials said.
Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman — a suspected Never Trumper who worked at the Department of Homeland Security under then-Secretary John Kelly — has not publicly defended Patel or the Pentagon from the recent accusations.
During Saturday’s conference call, a reporter for Task & Purpose questioned why the call was being held on background by unnamed senior defense officials who were criticizing reports using unnamed officials.
One of the senior defense officials responded that the call was on background to have “frank, open conversation” and not overshadow a generic, non-specific statement from the Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller. That statement, put out on Saturday, said:
Leadership transitions, be they from one company commander to the next or one presidential administration to another, are an area in which the Department boasts a long record of bipartisan excellence. The DoD and its transition leadership are fully cooperating with the Biden transition team, placing national security and the protection of the American people at the forefront of any and all discussions.
Task & Purpose later reported on the Pentagon’s unwillingness to go on the record: “Senior defense officials on Saturday declined to go on the record yet sharply criticized the use of anonymous sources in reports that the Pentagon was slow-rolling Biden-Harris transition efforts.”
A former Defense Department spokesperson, David Lapan, also questioned why the briefings were not on the record.
If the intent was to have an “open conversation and share the facts” then it should have been on-the-record. Period.
— David Lapan (@DaveLapanDC) December 5, 2020