A New ‘Guardian’ Report Shows Just How Far Team Trump Would Go to Discredit the Iran Deal

Aides allegedly hired an Israeli intelligence firm to dig up dirt on Obama staffers who were involved in negotiations.

Cheriss May/Sipa USA/AP

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

According to a new report from the Guardian, Trump aides hired an Israeli private intelligence firm to coordinate a “dirty ops” campaign against former Obama staffers who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal.

The alleged plan was to discredit the agreement, which the president has called the “worst deal ever,” by digging up dirt on Ben Rhodes, one of President Obama’s national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, who was Vice President Biden’s national security adviser. Investigators were supposedly told to look at their personal lives and any involvement with Iran-friendly lobbyists. They were also told to contact journalists who supported the deal to see if Rhodes or Kahl told them any sensitive information.

“I was not aware [of the campaign], though sadly am not surprised,” Rhodes told the Guardian. “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.”

It’s unclear how much work was done to carry out the plan, but after the Guardian story published, Kahl tweeted about an incident last year in which a supposed “socially responsible private equity” firm contacted his wife while she was serving on the fundraising committee at their child’s elementary school in Washington, D.C.

This seems eerily similar to the tactics used by operatives trying to silence Harvey Weinstein’s accusers. That might not be a coincidence:

The Guardian report comes just days before Trump’s May 12 deadline by which he’s said he’ll make a decision on whether to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. It also follows a recent, very public attempt by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discredit the deal—and potentially provide Trump cover should he choose to pull out of it. 


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend