Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Hacking trial: Blair offered to advise Murdoch

LONDON — Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair offered to work as an unofficial adviser to Rupert Murdoch as revelations of illegal phone hacking engulfed the mogul's media empire, according to an email made public Wednesday at the trial of several former Murdoch lieutenants.

Prosecutor Andrew Edis read aloud an email sent by Rebekah Brooks, then chief executive of Murdoch's British newspapers, to Murdoch's son and deputy James on July 11, 2011.

In it, Brooks said she had spent an hour on the phone with Blair, who had told her: "It will pass. Tough up."

She said he told her to "keep strong and definitely (take) sleeping pills."

Brooks also wrote that Blair "is available for you, KRM (Rupert Murdoch) and me as an unofficial adviser, but needs to be between us."

She said Blair suggested that Murdoch's company set up an external committee to look into phone hacking and that the committee could "publish a Hutton-style report." The 2004 Hutton Report cleared Blair's government of wrongdoing over its handling of intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Blair was Britain's leader between 1997 and 2007. He has become a highly paid, globe-trotting consultant to corporations and governments, a public speaker and a Middle East envoy. He remains dogged by criticism of his decision to take Britain into the 2003 U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Blair's office confirmed that the conversation with Brooks took place but said Blair was "simply giving informal advice over the phone."

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