Trump says Netanyahu, facing possible corruption charges, is ‘smart,’ ‘strong’
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Trump says Netanyahu, facing possible corruption charges, is ‘smart,’ ‘strong’

Hours before attorney general expected to announce indictment against PM, US president assesses he has ‘done a great job’

US President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference following the second US-North Korea summit in Hanoi on February 28, 2019. (Saul LOEB/AFP)
US President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference following the second US-North Korea summit in Hanoi on February 28, 2019. (Saul LOEB/AFP)

US President Donald Trump defended Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday as the premier reportedly awaited a decision on whether he will be indicted on corruption charges.

“I can say this, he’s done a great job as prime minister,” Trump said in Hanoi after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jing Un.

“He’s tough, smart, and strong. He’s very defensive, his military has been built up a lot,” Trump said.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit was reportedly set to announce later Thursday his intention to charge Netanyahu with criminal offenses in all three cases against him, including bribery in a corruption probe surrounding the national phone company, Bezeq.

According to reports, Mandelblit has decided to charge the prime minister with bribery in only one case, and the lesser charge of breach of trust in two others.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in a composite photo (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

If indeed charged, Netanyahu will be notified that he can request a hearing to contest the planned indictment. The hearing process could take up to a year, during which time he is not legally obliged to step down. It’s not clear if the prime minister could continue to serve after being formally charged with criminal offenses.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in all three cases, and has alleged that the investigations against him are a “witch hunt” involving the left, the media and the police, relentlessly pressuring a “weak” attorney general.

Mandelblit has refused demands by Netanyahu’s lawyers that he wait with his announcement on whether he intends to indict until after coming April 9 national elections.

In Case 1000, involving suspicions that Netanyahu received gifts and benefits from billionaire benefactors in exchange for favors, Mandelblit will reportedly charge Netanyahu with breach of trust. In Case 2000, involving suspicions Netanyahu agreed with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes to weaken a rival daily in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth, Mandelblit will reportedly also charge the premier with breach of trust, while Mozes will be charged with bribery.

In Case 4000, widely seen as the most serious against the premier, he is suspected of having advanced regulatory decisions that benefited Bezeq-controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch in exchange for positive coverage from the Elovitch-owned Walla news site. Mandelblit is reportedly going to announce he is charging Netanyahu with bribery. Elovitch too will reportedly face bribery charges.

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