‘Bro-like’: Schiff aide was White House friend of alleged whistleblower Eric Ciaramella
by Kerry Picket | Washington Examiner
Alleged Ukraine whistleblower Eric Ciaramella was close friends at the White House with an official who is now a key aide to Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman leading the Democratic push to impeach President Trump.
Sean Misko, 37, was the director for the Gulf States at the National Security Council from 2015 until the first half of 2018. Ciaramella, 33, a career CIA analyst, was Ukraine director on the NSC from at least 2016 until the summer of 2017. Both officials arrived during the Obama administration and left during the Trump administration.
In September, the whistleblower accused Trump of abusing the presidency by asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. The complaint is now the focus of Democratic-led impeachment proceedings.
Schiff initially denied he had any knowledge about the complaint prior to its filing in mid-August, saying on Sep. 17: “We have not spoken directly with the whistleblower. We would like to.” But it was later found that this statement was false and a member of his staff had spoken to the whistleblower before the complaint was filed on Aug. 12.
Misko joined Schiff’s staff in August 2019. Six months earlier, Schiff had hired Abigail Grace, another former NSC official who worked for both the Obama and Trump administrations. The Washington Examiner reported on Oct. 10 that the alleged whistleblower was on the NSC and worked with Biden. Ciaramella was a guest of Biden’s at a State Department banquet.
Before joining the NSC, Misko worked in the Obama administration as a member of the secretary of state’s policy planning staff for deputy chief of staff Jake Sullivan, who became Hillary Clinton’s senior foreign policy adviser during her 2016 presidential campaign.
Ciaramella and Misko were described to the Washington Examiner as workplace friends who had similarly antagonistic attitudes toward the Trump administration and were witnessed by a former National Security Council official, like Ciaramella, a nonpolitical appointee, to frequently be around one another.
“My understanding was that they were friendly with one another,” said the former official, who was senior to Ciaramella. “They would walk around the halls. Get lunch together and stuff like that.” He described them as “very much cut from the same cloth,” and their friendship as “bro-like.”
The former official described Ciaramella as “very hostile” toward him when they first met, and he asked the CIA officer about the type of competitive strategies he had put in place to compete with the Russians. “And he looked at me like, ‘What are you talking about? We don’t do that stuff here. We don’t take on our adversaries here. We invite think tanks here to talk about issues.’”
According to the former official, Trump’s first national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, who was fired by Trump after 24 days, wanted to “actually take the fight to our enemies and have real strategies, and it was such a contrast because whatever the hell the Obama NSC was doing, they were not taking on our adversaries.”
He said, “There was this weird cultural hostility to me asking him, ‘You know, are you guys doing your job here?’ He had a lot of arrogance about him,” adding that Ciaramella behaved like he had protection at the NSC, so he could be insubordinate to a more senior official.
“He had a lot of questions that were not about policy or strategy, but like, ‘Who are you? Where are you coming from? Are you here as a political appointee? Are you detail?’ These are things you ask if you want to be able to get dirt on somebody or you want to be able to figure out how powerful this person is. He was clearly an operator, not a person that’s there to do the job.”
Neither Ciaramella nor a spokesman for Schiff responded to Washington Examiner requests for comment.