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Then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in January. Photo. Emil Salman/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The boss of Israel's spy agency has been in private talks with former Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin about joining his investment fund that will work with Gulf countries, two sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Yossi Cohen, director of the Mossad, is retiring next week. But the discussions between him and Mnuchin occurred while he was still serving in his government role, which also included handling Israel's ties with Gulf countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, these sources said.

  • Cohen and a representative for Mnuchin declined to comment when Axios approached them about these discussions. A source who spoke to Cohen said no final decision has been made about him joining Mnuchin's fund.

State of play: Mnuchin's fund is expected to raise money from sovereign wealth funds in the Persian Gulf region. Funds for Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are evaluating cooperation with Mnuchin, according to sources familiar with their deliberations.

  • Former U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman also has discussed joining Mnuchin's fund. Friedman worked with Cohen during the Trump presidency on many issues, including Israel's relations with Gulf countries.
  • They resulted in a series of direct normalization agreements between Israel and several Arab countries known collectively as the "Abraham Accords."

The big picture: Both Mnuchin and Cohen worked closely with Qatar, the UAE and other Gulf states as part of their government jobs and traveled to the region several times.

  • The Mossad has been working closely with Qatar in recent years on the issue of Gaza. This work continued during the recent crisis, with the Israeli spy agency passing messages to Hamas via Qatar.
  • Israel has approved and sometimes requested Qatari transfers of hundreds of millions of dollars to Hamas-controlled Gaza. This has given Qatar sizable diplomatic influence.

Go deeper

Aug 18, 2021 - World

Scoop: CIA director raised China concerns with Israeli prime minister

The U.S. has raised concerns about Chinese investment in the Port of Haifa project. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty

While visiting Israel last week, CIA director Bill Burns told Prime Minister Naftali Bennett the U.S. was concerned about Chinese investments in Israel, particularly in the tech sector, and involvement in major infrastructure projects, Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: That's the highest level at which the Biden administration has raised an issue that previously became a rare point of contention between the Trump and Netanyahu governments.

Supreme Court rejects Trump's attempt to shield documents from Jan. 6 committee

Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The Supreme Court rejected on Wednesday night a bid by former President Trump to block the release of documents and records from his administration to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Why it matters: Trump asked the Supreme Court to step in and block the release of the documents last month after a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously denied his attempt to prevent the committee from obtaining the materials.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Biden says Russia likely to invade Ukraine

President Biden addressed the brewing conflict between Russia and Ukraine during a press briefing Wednesday, saying of Russian President Vladimir Putin, "my guess is he will move in."

Why it matters: U.S. officials have issued a series of warnings about Russia's threatening military buildup on the border with Ukraine, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying in Kyiv earlier Wednesday that Russia could invade "on very short notice."