Editor’s note: The headline was edited on 5/8 for clarity.
One effective way to help get yourself through the Trump Presidency is to understand that Trump sees the world the exact same way the infamous mobster Fat Tony does on The Simpsons. “Would be a shame if something happened to X” is basically the fundamental basis of both Trump’s business and political planning. So in light of that—and Washington D.C.’s general ruthlessness where ex-spies and the like find familiar work, but even deeper in the shadows—this story shouldn’t be that surprising. Per The Guardian:
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.
Colin Kahl detailed a bizarre interaction dredged up in his memory by this story.
Ronan Farrow—who won a Pulitzer for helping expose Harvey Weinstein’s decades of crimes—reported in The New Yorker that this story goes a bit deeper than what the Observer unearthed the day before:
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.
After recapping both Rhodes and Kahl’s stories, Farrow reported that these agencies who reached out to Rhodes and Kahl basically evaporated.
Adriana Gavrilo and Eva Novak appear to be aliases. LinkedIn pages for both Gavrilo and Novak at one point showed a slim blond woman advertised as fluent in Serbian. Shortly after The New Yorker contacted Black Cube about this story, Novak’s LinkedIn page was deleted. The e-mail addresses listed by both women do not work. Calls to the phone number Novak listed went unanswered. The Web sites for Reuben Capital Partners and Shell Productions have been taken down, but both were bare-bones pages constructed through the free site-building tool Wix. The addresses for both companies led to shared office spaces; there is no evidence that Shell Productions or Reuben Capital Partners had ever operated there.
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.
Farrow went on to write that this operation against the former Obama advisers was “strikingly similar to an operation that Black Cube ran on behalf of Harvey Weinstein.” Leave it to Trump to copy someone else’s idea and slap his name on it. Given the fallout still taking place around the former Hollywood titan—partially thanks to people like Ronan Farrow’s reporting on Black Cube—this is a story that may linger for a while. Expect an early morning temper tantrum on this soon from President Mad Online, as he undoubtedly believes that he can get away with anything so long as “Obama” is his target.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.