Sep 12, 2019

Netanyahu denies that Israel spied on Trump White House

Netanyahu and Trump at the White House in March 2019. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied Thursday a Politico report that said the FBI and other U.S. intelligence agencies believe Israel was behind the planting of devices that intercept cellphone communications near the White House and around Washington, D.C.

Why it matters: The report highlights a rift between the two allies, as Israeli officials strenuously deny that such spying took place while Politico reports that "former [U.S.] officials with deep experience dealing with intelligence matters scoff at the Israeli claim."

  • Israeli officials are wondering amongst themselves why such an accusation would be brought up at the current time.
  • Politico reports that the devices were "likely intended" to spy on President Trump and his top aides, citing a former official.
  • The report also states that "the Trump administration took no action to punish or even privately scold the Israeli government" after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Israel was likely behind the planted devices, citing one former senior intelligence official.

The state of play: Netanyahu saw the report while he was on a plane heading to Sochi for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his office issued a statement minutes later calling the report and the accusations "a blatant lie."

  • It added: "There is a longstanding commitment, and a directive from the Israeli government, not to engage in any intelligence operations in the U.S. This directive is strictly enforced without exception."
  • After landing in Sochi, Netanyahu reiterated his denial in front of news cameras and called the spying allegations a "complete fabrication." He stressed that he gave orders not to spy on the U.S. and that he has made sure those orders were kept.

Go deeper: Netanyahu gives public blessing to potential Trump-Iran meeting

Go deeper

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A protest near the White House on Sunday night. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Most external White House lights were turned off late Sunday as the D.C. National Guard was deployed to assist and authorities fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters nearby, per the New York Times.

What's happening: It's one of several tense, late-night standoffs between law enforcement and demonstrators.

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Dozens of journalists across the country tweeted videos Saturday night of themselves and their crews getting arrested, being shot at by police with rubber bullets, targeted with tear gas by authorities or assaulted by protesters.

Driving the news: The violence got so bad over the weekend that on Sunday the Cleveland police said the media was not allowed downtown unless "they are inside their place of business" — drawing ire from news outlets around the country, who argued that such access is a critical part of adequately covering protests.

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Tanker truck plows into Minneapolis protesters

The tanker after plowing into protesters on the shut-down bridge in Minneapolis on Sunday evening. Authorities said it appeared protesters escaped injury. Photo: Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Minnesota authorities said in a statement they're investigating as a criminal matter what happened with a truck that "drove into demonstrators" on a Minneapolis bridge Sunday evening while the eight-lane road was closed for a protest.

What they're saying: Minnesota Department of Public Safety tweeted, "Very disturbing actions by a truck driver on I-35W, inciting a crowd of peaceful demonstrators. The truck driver was injured & taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. He is under arrest. It doesn't appear any protesters were hit by the truck."