A veteran American conservative pollster with close ties to both US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to push a conspiracy theory that the Democratic Party was running efforts to target the two leaders, as both face separate accusations of abusing the powers of office and corruption.
John McLaughlin is noted for his surveys on Republican candidates and has also worked with Netanyahu for more than a decade.
During a Sunday interview with radio program “The Cats Roundtable,” hosted by conservative billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis, McLaughlin claimed Netanyahu has “been under investigation from the left and been persecuted from the left.”
Netanyahu has often claimed, without evidence, that the investigations against him are part of a left-wing conspiracy to oust him from power. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who made the decision last week to indict the premier in three criminal cases, is a Netanyahu appointee and previously served as his cabinet secretary.
McLaughlin claimed that during Israel’s 2015 elections, “President [Barack] Obama’s people were over there running a super PAC” against Netanyahu.
He was apparently referring to Israeli group V15, which in the run-up to that election campaigned to unseat Netanyahu. The Israeli right has often accused the Obama administration of supporting the group in a bid to oust Netanyahu. A US Senate inquiry eventually found that State Department funds backing pro-peace group OneVoice had been used by that organization to support V15.
Catsimatidis asked if “the people after Netanyahu — are they the same people or the same gang that is after President Trump in Washington?” McLaughlin replied: “I would venture that,” citing the Blue and White party’s use of former Obama political strategist Joel Benenson.
“Our main opponent in Israel right now, a fellow named Benny Gantz, who runs the Blue and White party — his campaign was just run by Joel Benenson. And Joel Benenson is one of the smartest left-to-center strategists in the country, because he was Obama’s pollster for both his elections and he worked for Hillary Clinton,” McLaughlin said.
“You know, in 2015 [Democrats] didn’t want Bibi to wreck things with their deal that they were gonna have with Iran so they were trying to beat him,” he said, using Netanyahu’s nickname. “And now they want Trump and Bibi out of the way.”
He added that “the left really resents” Netanyahu, apparently referring to both the Israeli and American left-wing. In the US “you have people on the other side of the debate — they don’t like what Bibi stands for. Bibi stands for strength, he stands for security, he stands for growing economies.”
Catsimatidis claimed that with Netanyahu facing accusations of bribery in one case, fraud and breach of trust in three criminal cases, “It sounds familiar. Isn’t that what [House Speaker] Pelosi brought up with President Trump? Bribery?”
McLaughlin agreed, saying there were “a lot of things here that are in common between Prime Minister Netanyahu… and certainly what’s going on in the United States where the same people would basically like to see Donald Trump removed from office because they can’t beat him in the election.”
Trump is facing impeachment hearings led by US Democrats in the House of Representatives over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.
Netanyahu is set to be indicted for illicit relations with billionaires that saw him receive expensive gifts while advancing their interests, as well as for alleged efforts to sway press coverage in his favor in return for benefits to media moguls.
Following last week’s announcement, Netanyahu claimed that the investigations into his alleged misconduct had been tainted by various improprieties and accused law enforcement authorities of “selective enforcement” against him. He demanded to “investigate the investigators.”
Separately, Israel’s Channel 13 news reported Sunday that Aaron Klein, who heads far-right outlet Breitbart’s Jerusalem office, has recently acted as an adviser to Netanyahu in the lead-up to the announcement of his indictment.
Mandelblit’s announcement Thursday did not include the official filing of an indictment, as the Knesset must first decide whether to grant Netanyahu procedural immunity, a process that — due to the current political gridlock and the lack of a functioning government — could drag on for months.