Revealed: Tony Blair’s secret White House summit as he launches astonishing bid to work for Donald Trump… as his Middle East peace envoy
- Blair attended a secret meeting at the White House to discuss working for Trump
- Held talks with Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner this week
- The former PM and Kushner have met three times in secret since September
- Could setback Theresa May’s hopes of forging ‘special relationship’ with Trump
The former Prime Minister held talks with Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner on Wednesday with a view to becoming a Middle East peace envoy for Trump.
This newspaper has learned that Blair and Kushner have met three times in secret since September, including their three-hour summit in the West Wing last week.
If Trump gives Blair the new role, it would mark an astonishing international comeback for the man whose reputation was left in tatters after the Iraq War.
And it would be a major setback to Theresa May’s hopes of forging her own ‘special relationship’ with Trump, especially as former Ukip leader Nigel Farage is already a close confidant of the President.
Blair’s wooing of the Trump family is also likely to re-open speculation about his close friendship with Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife Wendi Deng, who is a friend of Kushner’s wife, Ivanka, Trump’s daughter.
Blair and Deng were both present at a gathering of media and political powerbrokers in Aspen, Colorado, in September, where Blair first met Kushner to discuss political issues. The event was organised by veteran US talk-show host Charlie Rose, who visited Trump at his New York HQ days after his election triumph. Former Chancellor George Osborne was a speaker at the Aspen event.
Just days after Trump’s election victory in November, Blair and Kushner met again when they dined at the £150-a-head Harry Cipriani restaurant in New York’s Sherry-Netherland Hotel.
Blair has previously been a Middle East envoy for the so-called ‘Quartet’ of the EU, US, Russia and the United Nations – and his knowledge of the region is said to be attractive to the inexperienced Trump administration.
The bombshell disclosure of his secret White House summit follows Blair’s decision three months ago to wind up his controversial business empire. Weeks later he announced a crusade against the wave of ‘new populism’ spreading across the world, but insisted that he had no intention of making a political comeback.
At the time, his speech was seen as an attack on Brexit, though some also saw it as a swipe at the same wave of ‘populism’ that gave Trump the keys to the White House.
Blair has previously been more direct about the rise of Trump, saying a year ago: ‘I look at politics today and wonder if I still understand it. I get really anxious when policy is being made by Twitter feed.’
But he was more conciliatory after Trump’s victory. Blair admitted that the result was an ‘earthquake’ and that Trump’s rhetoric on immigration had shifted the political scene. He argued that Trump’s success was the beginning of a new ‘reality’ that politicians in the West had to come to terms with.
Similarly, when Theresa May invited Trump to make a controversial state visit to the UK, Blair said: ‘I certainly don’t criticise the Prime Minister for reaching out to President Trump. It’s important that she builds a strong relationship.’
Blair and Kushner have discussed a role for the former Prime Minister in achieving what Trump has described as ‘the ultimate deal’ – peace in the Middle East. As a British citizen Blair would not be permitted to have a formal job in the US Government, but the President could give him a role as an adviser.
Trump’s decision to put 36-year-old Kushner in charge of efforts to revive the peace process, which collapsed in 2014, raised eyebrows in Washington as the property investor has no experience of high-level diplomacy. Middle East experts said Kushner was almost unknown to Israeli business and political figures and has had no dealings whatsoever with Palestinians.
Trump denied his son-in-law’s appointment broke US anti-nepotism laws, saying Kushner, an Orthodox Jew who is the grandson of Holocaust survivors, ‘knows the region, knows the people, knows the players’.
Blair was peace envoy for the ‘Quartet’ from 2007 to 2015. But he made little progress and was dogged by claims that he was ‘too close’ to the Israelis. When he stepped down, he was said to have been ‘frustrated’ by his limited role in helping the Palestinians.
Blair’s appeal to the Trump administration is believed to be his vastly greater knowledge of the Middle East than Kushner’s.
A well-placed source said Blair’s role could be as Kushner’s senior adviser: ‘Blair has been pitching hard for this job and Trump’s people are taking him very seriously.’
A spokesman for Blair, who is currently in the Middle East, said: ‘We do not comment on private meetings.’
Reaping rewards from chaos he sowed – and using his political charm to schmooze his way in the White House
The photograph of a smiling Tony Blair, thumbs tucked in jean pockets, strolling alongside newly elected President George Bush at his Camp David retreat in 2001 came to define Blair’s Premiership.
Just over two years later, the pair defied world opinion and invaded Iraq.
It was a disaster which, arguably, destroyed the reputation of both. And many experts say it was a major factor in the rise of the so-called Islamic State terror group.
Such history will make many despair at the idea Blair may be given a new role in ending the Middle East chaos whose flames he fanned.
But the former Prime Minister has always been a political chameleon. And he has usually found a way of schmoozing his way into the White House.
In 1998, he teamed up with fellow left-of-centre showman Bill Clinton before delivering his famous ‘liberal intervention’ speech in Chicago. Both were subsequently hailed as heroes when their military action ended the bloody Bosnian civil war.
But the same doctrine ended in disaster when Blair and Bush attempted to intervene in Afghanistan and Iraq, amid claims that they lied about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.
By rights, Democrat Barack Obama was a far more natural political ally for Blair than Right-wing cowboy Bush. But Obama, keen to distance himself from his predecessor, kept Bush’s warmonger British pal at arm’s length.
Despite pledging a $54 billion (£44 billion) increase in defence spending and vowing to wipe out IS, Trump has also said he intends to focus on rebuilding the US economy rather than getting involved in foreign wars.
On her recent visit to the US, Theresa May went out of her way to echo Trump’s foreign policy move. She did so by disowning the ‘failed policies of the past’ – an obvious reference to Bush, Blair, Iraq and Afghanistan and the clearest possible public repudiation of Blair’s ‘liberal intervention’. Now the predecessor she publicly disowned in a speech to Trump’s supporters could be back in the White House advising the Trump team on foreign affairs. And doing it behind her back.
Asked how she would get over personal differences with flamboyant Trump, vicar’s daughter Mrs May coyly replied: ‘Opposites attract.’ Wily charmer Mr Blair is more than capable of using precisely the same chat-up line to weave his way into the affections of Donald Trump.
After all, following Brexit, Mrs May will no longer be able to act as a ‘bridge’ between the White House and Brussels. Blair is on first-name terms with most EU leaders including Angela Merkel. Having made millions from business dealings with all manner of super-rich world leaders, Blair will get on with Trump like a house on fire.
TRUMP: OBAMA’S BUGGED ME. HIS RESPONSE: THAT’S FAKE NEWS
Donald Trump yesterday accused Barack Obama of bugging his phones in the run up to last November’s election.
Mr Trump made the explosive allegation on Twitter, posting: ‘Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found.’
The President likened the alleged surveillance to Watergate, the 1970s scandal that brought down President Nixon but gave no evidence to support his claim. He said: ‘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!’ In another tweet he asked: ‘Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election?’
Mr Trump also appeared to threaten legal action, writing: ‘I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to the Election!’
Last night a spokesman for Mr Obama said: ‘Neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any US citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.’ It is thought Mr Trump may have been referring to comments made on a radio show that were then published on the far-Right Breitbart news website on Friday. It suggested that the Obama administration used ‘police state’ tactics to monitor the Trump campaign.
Mr Trump is convinced that elements within the intelligence community have been trying to sabotage his presidency.
Mr Trump also used Twitter to pour scorn on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to quit as host of TV show Celebrity Apprentice because of the President’s association with it. Trump, his predecessor as the show’s host, posted: ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t voluntarily leaving the Apprentice, he was fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings, not by me. Sad end to great show.’