An ex-aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has signed a state witness deal in a corruption probe linked to his former boss, Israeli media reported Monday, dealing a new setback to the premier.
News of the agreement broke ahead of Netanyahu’s meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House later Monday.
The widely reported agreement between Israeli authorities and Nir Hefetz, a former spokesman for the Netanyahu family, comes as corruption investigations into the prime minister intensify.
Israeli police provided no details on the reported agreement. Hefetz would be the third Netanyahu associate to sign a state witness deal in recent months.
An aide to Netanyahu immediately denounced the reports and proclaimed the long-serving prime minister’s innocence.
“When there’s something there, it doesn’t take even one state witness,” the aide said.
“And now, even a thousand state witnesses will not help.”
On Sunday, an Israeli court released Hefetz and telecoms mogul Shaul Elovitch and put them under house arrest after 14 days in custody.
Hefetz is alleged to have acted as a messenger between Netanyahu, Elovitch’s telecoms group Bezeq and news website Walla!, media reports say.
Police suspect Bezeq was given regulatory breaks in return for Netanyahu receiving positive coverage on Walla!, a news website owned by the telecoms group.
Hefetz is also suspected of trying to bribe a retired judge to block a probe into the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, over alleged misuse of public funds, according to the reports.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Hefetz had agreed to hand over recordings of Netanyahu and his wife as part of the state witness deal.
Last month, Israeli police recommended Netanyahu’s indictment on two other cases of alleged bribery. The attorney general is now considering how to move forward in those cases.
In one case, Netanyahu and family members are suspected of receiving one million shekels ($285,000, 230,000 euros) in gifts, including luxury cigars, champagne and jewellery, from wealthy figures in exchange for financial or personal favours.
In the other case, investigators suspect the premier of trying to reach an agreement with the owner of Yediot Aharonot newspaper for more favourable coverage.
Israeli media reported that Hefetz could also provide testimony in those two investigations.
The building investigations into Netanyahu’s affairs have raised questions over whether the 68-year-old will eventually have to step down.
He has been prime minister for a total of around 12 years.
The probes have also led to speculation in the Israeli media that he may opt for early elections in the coming months in a bid to bolster his standing before a decision on indictments is made.
ICE Barricades Entrances to Prevent Protestors from Entering Government Building
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers barricaded an employee and visitor entrance Wednesday to prevent activists from performing an “occupation” of the agency’s D.C. headquarters.
Several dozen activists had intended to enter the building to protest Trump administration deportation and border detention policies, but arrived to find temporary fencing and a line of officers blocking their way.
Amid heavy rain, activists chanted slogans anyhow, including “quit your jobs!” at Department of Homeland Security guards and ICE employees who peered from windows.
The protest was organized by Movimiento Cosecha and was advertised in a press release as a demonstration by “undocumented activists and allies,” as similar protests occur in other cities.
Christian Leader Robert Jeffress Condemns Jews to Hell During Speech at Jerusalem Embassy Opening.
Robert Jeffress, one of Trump’s personal religious leaders decided to insult the entire National of Israel today, by condemning all Jews to hell during the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem.
Robert Jeffress says ‘you can’t be saved by being a Jew,’ and ‘Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.’ He’s said the same about Islam,” Said Mitt Romney, who is running for a Senate seat representing Utah, wrote. “Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.”
The Anti-Defamation League also criticized Jeffress on twitter, writing: “Today is a day of celebration as the US Embassy opens in Jerusalem. The choice of Pastor Robert Jeffress to offer a prayer sends exactly the wrong message. Jeffress has a history of bigoted comments about LGBTQ people, Jews, Muslims, Christians and other religions.”
Both evangelical pastors chosen by Trump to bless the US embassy opening – Jeffress and Hagee – are adamant zealots for Jewish conversion – nothing more grossly insulting to Jewish history and the endurance of Judaism could possibly have been dreamed up.
— Simon Schama (@simon_schama) May 14, 2018
This man is an embarrassment to the United States and to the Christian faith. It’s hard to get reputable clergy to attend such an event but this is shameful.
Who Is Robert Jeffress? ‘Bigot’ Pastor From Texas Due to Speak at U.S. Jerusalem Embassy Move https://t.co/oq96Veby6C
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) May 14, 2018
Alexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica has been Suspended by Board
Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, the firm at the heart of the data-mining scandal, has been suspended.
The company said in a statement: “The board of Cambridge Analytica has announced today that it has suspended CEO Alexander Nix with immediate effect pending a full, independent investigation.
“In the view of the board, Mr Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation.”
Cambridge Analytica said its chief data officer Alexander Tayler had been appointed acting chief executive while an investigation was carried out by Julian Malins QC whose findings they would “share publicly in due course”.
“The board will be monitoring the situation closely, working closely with Dr Tayler, to ensure that Cambridge Analytica, in all of its operations, represents the firm’s values and delivers the highest-quality service to its clients.”
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