Belfast Telegraph

Blair denies he lobbied to become Trump's peace envoy in Middle East

By Jon Sharman

Tony Blair has dismissed a report he is in talks to become an adviser to US President Donald Trump as "an invention".

The former Prime Minister is said to have met Mr Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner three times in recent months, including in the White House.

The Mail on Sunday reported Mr Blair wanted to become a Middle East peace envoy for the President. He held the role for the Quartet group of countries for eight years, until 2015.

A statement from the former Labour leader's office said: "The story is an invention. Mr Blair (right) has made no such pitch to be the President's Middle East envoy. Neither has he had any discussions about taking such a role or any role working for the new President.

"He has been working on the peace process for 10 years. He continues to do so. He does so in a private capacity.

"He will continue to do it in that way. Period."

It was reported that Mr Blair met Mr Kushner, who is now an adviser to the President, for the first time in September last year.

They reportedly met a second time in November after Mr Trump's election win, ahead of the latest apparent encounter in Washington. The President put Mr Kushner in charge of brokering a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the White House is demanding that a probe into Russian interference in last year's US presidential election also examine claims that former President Obama had telephones at Trump Tower wire-tapped.

White House officials said they want the congressional committees to determine whether "executive branch investigative powers" were abused in 2016 - a reference to President Trump's claim of wire tapping in a series of tweets on Saturday.

Mr Trump has offered no evidence or details to support his claim, which was denied by Mr Obama's spokesman.

He made the allegations in a series of tweets, claiming he "just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!"

Mr Trump compared the alleged activity to behaviour involving former president Richard Nixon and the bugging of his political opponents.

"How low has President Obama gone to tapp (sic) my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!" he tweeted. But Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said a "cardinal rule" of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered in any Justice Department investigations, which are supposed to be conducted free of political influence.

"As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any US citizen," Mr Lewis said, adding that "any suggestion otherwise is simply false".

Mr Trump said the wire-tapping occurred in October. He ran the presidential transition largely out of Trump Tower in New York, where he also maintains a residence.

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