LONDON (AP) — 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 Murdoch's company set up an external committee into phone hacking, which would "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, winning three consecutive elections. Since leaving office he has become a highly paid, globe-trotting consultant to corporations and governments, a public speaker and a Middle East envoy for the international Quartet.He remains dogged by criticism of his decision to take Britain into the 2003 U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Brooks, who was chief executive of Murdoch's News International when the hacking scandal erupted, was close to Blair and to the current prime minister, David Cameron.
Blair's office confirmed that the conversation with Brooks took place, but said Blair was "simply giving informal advice over the phone."
In a statement, Blair's office said he had stressed to Brooks that "it was essential to have a fully transparent and independent process to get to the bottom of what had happened."
Six days after sending the email, on July 17, 2011, Brooks was arrested. She was charged with conspiring to hack phones, bribe officials and obstruct a police investigation.
She and six others are on trial on charges stemming from the revelation that News of the World employees eavesdropped on the voicemails of celebrities, politicians, sports figures, royalty and even crime victims. Murdoch closed the 168-year-old tabloid amid a wave of public outrage, and the scandal expanded to ensnare Britain's establishment — exposing a cozy web of ties between powerful politicians, senior police and media executives.
All defendants deny the charges against them.
Judge John Saunders said the defense case would open Thursday after a series of legal arguments Wednesday. The trial, which began in October, is due to run at least until May. The key points so far: