An Israeli private intelligence firm was reportedly hired to dig up dirt on Obama administration officials who worked on the Iran nuclear deal in an effort to undermine the agreement.
The operation was reported by the Observer in London and the New Yorker. The revelations come as the Trump administration faces a May 12 deadline to decide whether to continue waiving sanctions on Iran that were lifted under the 2015 Iran deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.
The Observer reported that aides to President Trump hired Black Cube "to orchestrate a 'dirty ops' campaign against key individuals from the Obama administration." A source told the New Yorker that the operation was "part of Black Cube's work for a private-sector client pursuing commercial interested related to sanctions on Iran."
The company, Black Cube, refuted the report.
"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. Anyone who claims otherwise is misleading their readers and viewers," the firm said in a statement obtained by CNN.
It also said it won't discuss clients with any third party and that its policy is "to never confirm or deny any speculation made with regard to the company's work."
The Observer quoted "incendiary documents" in which the firm asked investigators to dig into the personal and political lives of Ben Rhodes, Obama's national security adviser, and Colin Kahl, an Obama aide and Joe Biden, the former vice president.
The New Yorker reported that both Rhodes' and Kahl's wives were targeted by emails from nonexistent companies soliciting information.
The magazine reported that the operation "is strikingly similar to an operation that Black Cube ran on behalf of Harvey Weinstein," the Hollywood producer facing allegations of sexual harassment.
Kahl wrote on Twitter on Sunday: "CONFIRMED: The Israeli intel firm Black Cube used to go after Harvey Weinstein's accusers also targeted me & @brhodes (& our families)."
"Despite Black Cube's BS dodge/denial , the evidence shows they went after me by targeting my wife & attempting to collect derogatory evidence with the goal of arming *someone* with info to discredit proponents of the Iran Deal," Kahl tweeted.
The New Yorker report said, "Transcripts produced by Black Cube reveal that the firm secretly recorded a conversation" between Triti Parsi, an author and president of the National Iranian-American Council, and one of its agents.
Parsi posted a thread to Twitter reacting to the revelation. He said he was "angered and disturbed to find out this weekend that I was targeted by Black Cube (former Mossad operatives) and their efforts to discredit Obama officials and supporters of the Iran Deal."
Parsi described a "pretend journalist" who "tried to goad me into agreeing" that the Obama administration "pursued the nuclear deal for economic and financial reason."
"I had seen no evidence to suggest that in my research. On the contrary," he said.
He said he didn't think much of the interview until the weekend, when he found out the interviewer was an intelligence operative, not a journalist.
"But it does fit a long-standing pattern in which proponents of war have engaged in extensive efforts to discredit and silence voices in favor of a diplomatic solution with Iran," Parsi said.
Black Cube said in its statement: "Luckily, the Mossad and the CIA are capable to deal with the Iran Nuclear deal and other issues of national security without relying on the expertise of Black Cube. It is important to note that Black Cube always operates in full compliance of the law in every jurisdiction in which it conducts its work, following legal advice from the world's leading law firms."
CNN has asked and is waiting for the White House to comment on the reports.