Trump aides hired Israeli private intelligence firm to dig up dirt on Obama officials: report

Aides to President Trump reportedly hired an Israeli private intelligence firm to dig up compromising information on two of former President Obama’s foreign policy officials in an attempt to discredit the Iran nuclear agreement, according to reports obtained by British newspaper The Observer and published in The Guardian.

The Observer reports that Trump officials contacted the firm and directed it to find compromising personal information on former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl, Vice President Joe Biden‘s national security adviser.

The intent allegedly was to find information that could be used by the Trump administration to discredit the Iran nuclear deal. Trump faces a May 12 deadline to renew U.S. involvement in the deal.

Investigators looked at Rhodes’s and Kahl’s personal relationships, any activity with Iran-friendly lobbyists and whether the officials had benefited personally or politically from the deal.

“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,” an unnamed source familiar with the operation told The Observer.

Rhodes blasted the move as “chillingly authoritarian” in a statement to the publication.

“I was not aware, though sadly am not surprised. I would say that 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,” he said.

The Hill has requested comment from the White House on the report.

Trump and his aides have signaled that the U.S. will exit the Obama-era nuclear agreement with Iran next week unless significant improvements are made.

Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron visited the White House for an official state visit and to make a last-ditch effort to persuade Trump to remain in the agreement. After the visit, Macron told reporters that he still expects Trump to exit the deal.

“My view — I don’t know what your president will decide — is that he will get rid of this deal on his own, for domestic reasons,” Macron said.

Such a move “can work in the short term but it’s very insane in the medium to long term,” he added.

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