Obama Alumni Claim They Have Been Targeted by Opposition Researchers Working for Trump

The impending demise of the Iran nuclear deal has Obama alumni scurrying around like cockroaches when a light is turned on. The legacy achievement of the Obama administration has been demonstrated to be a way calculated to let Iran build a nuclear weapon, albeit at a later date. Now they have launched one of the most bizarre political attacks in the annals of transparently desperate political attacks. This comes from The Guardian over the weekend: Revealed: Trump team hired spy firm for ‘dirty ops’ on Iran arms deal.

Aides to Donald Trump, the US president, hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a “dirty ops” campaign against key individuals from the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal, the Observer can reveal.

People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to “get dirt” on Ben Rhodes, who had been one of Barack Obama’s top national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal.

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 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.”

Although sources have confirmed that contact and an initial plan of attack was provided to private investigators by representatives of Trump, it is not clear how much work was actually undertaken, for how long or what became of any material unearthed.

And Ronan Farrow tries to build on his #MeToo creds by linking this to his only claim to fame other than being Woody Allen’s brother-in-law: Israeli Operatives Who Aided Harvey Weinstein Collected Information on Former Obama Administration Officials.

…The campaign was first reported, on Saturday, by the British newspaper the Observer. However, sources familiar with the effort and pages of documents obtained by The New Yorker reveal that there is more to understand. Two of those sources told me on Sunday that the operation was carried out by Black Cube—a firm that was also employed by Harvey Weinstein and that offers its clients access to operatives from “Israel’s élite military and governmental intelligence units,” including the Mossad.

The documents show that Black Cube compiled detailed background profiles of several individuals, including Rhodes and Kahl, that featured their addresses, information on their family members, and even the makes of their cars. Black Cube agents were instructed to try to find damaging information about them, including unsubstantiated claims that Rhodes and Kahl had worked closely with Iran lobbyists and were personally enriched through their policy work on Iran (they denied those claims); rumors that Rhodes was one of the Obama staffers responsible for “unmasking” Trump transition officials who were named in intelligence documents (Rhodes denied the claim); and an allegation that one of the individuals targeted by the campaign had an affair.

The campaign is strikingly similar to an operation that Black Cube ran on behalf of Harvey Weinstein, which was reported in The New Yorker last fall. One of Weinstein’s attorneys, David Boies, hired Black Cube to halt the publication of sexual-misconduct allegations against Weinstein…

Is this story true? It could be. Black Cube denies any involvement, which is no more dispositive than The Guardian asserting it:

The company denied that it targeted Rhodes, Kahl and others. “Black Cube has no relation whatsoever to the Trump administration, to Trump aides, to anyone close to the administration or to the Iran Nuclear deal,” it said in a statement. “Anyone who claims otherwise is misleading their readers and viewers.”

A Black Cube source told The Jerusalem Post its employees did not know Kahl.

Developing oppo research on political/commercial opponents using private detective agencies is hardly a new idea. I mean, in theory, you could easily imagine a situation where a retired Brit intelligence agent was trawling contacts in Russian intelligence for dirt on a presidential candidate which was then spread to the media. In theory, I mean. In real life, nothing like that would happen. Where the story gets into Alex Jones or Kurt Eichenwald country is by saying “Trump aides.” Who, specifically? And, of course, they had to be Israelis because The Guardian can never truly resist a good Jewish conspiracy story. And how are they paid? I’m guessing the Koch Brothers, right?

Colin Kahl–if you choose to believe him now, and, based on his fluffing of the Iran nuclear deal you’d be excused for dismissing him as a pathological liar–makes a decent circumstantial case that some kind of oppo operation was underway (read the whole thread):

And Ben Rhodes snivels.

What struck me was that most of the outlets covering the story make a point of saying the investigators were looking into whether one of the subjects (we don’t know which) was having an affair. This smells like the old, “honey, people are just telling you I’m having an affair because they are all so jealous of our love” story. The universality of this factoid is a hint that a public relations company is working with Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl to spread the story. And there is zero chance of Colin Kahl having an affair:

What is missing in this, and I’ll plead guilty to “whataboutism” right now, is the record of the Obama administration in using US government resources to spy on political opposition. Reporters, like Sheryl Atkisson, who ran afoul of the administration had their computers hacked. The NSA was used to place indirect surveillance on members of Congress who opposed the Iran nuclear deal. And who can forget the CIA brazenly hacking computers used by Senate staffers who were compiling a report on torture?

We are given zero information that says the people who hired the private intelligence firm were in the Trump administration. We are given zero information on where the funds come from. None of the activities described seem any more nefarious than tactics that would be used by investigative reporters to get a story. The big issues seem to be that the targets were Obama alumni and that the purpose was to force those alumni from the public fight over the Iran nuclear deal. I’m not sure this is surprising much less illegal.

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