Donald Trump’s obsession with former President Barack Obama and his administration’s policies just took another sinister turn that is simply Nixonian.
An investigation by the Observer revealed Saturday that Trump aides allegedly hired a private Israeli intelligence agency to conduct a “dirty ops” effort against Obama administration officials who promoted the Iran nuclear deal. The effort, it appears, wasn’t focused specifically on influencing global opinion regarding the merits of the deal, which is strongly supported by major U.S. allies, but rather to discredit it entirely by smearing the people who participated in it.
According to the report:
Sources said that officials linked to Trump’s team contacted investigators days after Trump visited Tel Aviv a year ago, his first foreign tour as US president. Trump promised [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu that Iran would never have nuclear weapons and suggested that the Iranians thought they could “do what they want” since negotiating the nuclear deal in 2015. A source with details of the “dirty tricks campaign” said: “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.”
Two main targets of this operation, according to the newspaper, were Obama national security adviser Ben Rhodes and deputy assistant to Obama Colin Kahl. Private operators allegedly attempted to “get dirt” on the two by delving into their private and political lives. This included instructions for investigators to contact prominent Iranian Americans and news media outlets including The New York Times, MSNBC, The Atlantic, Vox, and Haaretz, among others, according to the report.
“These are extraordinary and appalling allegations but which also illustrate a high level of desperation by Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu, not so much to discredit the deal but to undermine those around it,” former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the newspaper.
Kahl responded on Twitter by describing a situation that unfolded in May and June of last year in which someone he now believes was part of an intelligence operation targeted his wife.
“Last year, my wife was serving on the fundraising committee of my daughter’s public charter school in DC. One day, out of the blue, she received an email from someone claiming to represent a socially responsible private equity firm in the UK,” Kahl wrote. “This ‘UK person’ said ‘she’ was flying to DC soon and wanted to have coffee with my wife to discuss the possibility of including my daughter’s school in their educational fund network. This was not a generic ‘Nigerian prince’ scam. This person had all sorts of specific information on my wife’s volunteer duties at an obscure DC elementary school.”
Kahl and his wife checked out the bogus firm and spotted several red flags. They promptly ended correspondence with the person.
“Perhaps it was just a coincidence that this obvious scam targeting my family had all the hallmarks of an intel op and coincided with Team Trump’s reported efforts to ‘dig up dirt’ on me. But the fact that I even have to think about the possibility that my family was targeted by people working for the President is yet another sign of the fundamental degradation of our country that Trump has produced,” Kahl tweeted.
On May 12, Trump must decide whether to continue waving sanctions on Iran, as outlined in the 2015 agreement. Trump has repeatedly attacked the deal, even as recently as late April, when French President Emmanuel Macron visited the U.S. and tried unsuccessfully to talk Trump out of scrapping it.
On Sunday, Democratic Rep. John Garamendi said on MSNBC that Iran continues to hold up its end of the agreement and that inspections are taking place. Also on Sunday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that a decision by Trump to scrap the nuclear deal would be a “historic mistake,” CNN reported.