Speed Reads

dirty tricks

Israeli private investigators targeted the families of Obama staffers involved in the Iran deal

Last May, somebody hired Israeli private investigation firm Black Cube to dig up dirt on Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl, two national security officials in Barack Obama's White House, Britain's The Observer and The New Yorker report. The Observer, citing unidentified sources, said that aides to President Trump or "officials linked to Trump's team" had contacted Black Cube about the job days after Trump visited Tel Aviv. Black Cube and its aggressive tactics came to light after The New Yorker unveiled its work for producer Harvey Weinstein to bury, unsuccessfully, sexual assault allegations.

A source with details of the "dirty tricks campaign" told The Observer, The Guardian's Sunday newspaper, "The idea was that people acting for Trump would discredit those who were pivotal in selling the deal, making it easier to pull out of it." Trump might pull out of the deal by May 12. The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow was told the investigation, which also targeted journalists, was "part of Black Cube's work for a private-sector client pursuing commercial interests related to sanctions on Iran."

Black Cube told The New Yorker its policy is "to never discuss its clients with any third party, and to never confirm or deny any speculation made with regard to the company's work," denied that Trump aides had hired it to discredit the Iran deal, and said it always operates within the law. The wives of Rhodes and Kalh both said they received suspicious email invitations from a woman who claimed she worked for shell companies linked to Black Cube in the Weinstein case, and documents seen by both The New Yorker and The Observer show the investigators were given extensive profiles of Rhodes and Kalh and their families and told to hunt down specific information on them.

Rhodes told The Observer he had been unaware of the campaign but "digging up dirt on someone for carrying out their professional responsibilities in their positions as White House officials is a chillingly authoritarian thing to do." Kalh pointed out that about the same time Black Cube was apparently investigating him, Trump administration officials were criticizing him and Rhodes in public. "Why conjoin Ben and me?" Kahl asked The New Yorker. "Of all the other senior people in the White House, I'm least senior." Read more at The New Yorker and The Observer.