George Clooney Complained to White House About Biden’s Criticism of I.C.C.


George Clooney contacted a top White House official in May to complain after President Biden criticized the International Criminal Court’s decision to seek a warrant against top Israeli officials over the war in Gaza, a case the actor’s wife had worked on, according to two people familiar with the situation.

His wife, Amal Clooney, a prominent human rights lawyer, served on an advisory panel that helped conduct the court’s investigation, which resulted in warrant requests for Israel’s prime minister and defense minister and three senior Hamas leaders, accusing them of illegal conduct that has led to thousands of civilian deaths.

Mr. Clooney lodged his protest with Steve Ricchetti, a counselor to Mr. Biden who played a pivotal role in his fund-raising efforts four years ago. It had no effect on U.S. policy, a senior administration official said on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Nonetheless, Mr. Clooney’s decision to contact the White House (in the form of a text message, one of the people said) underscores the problems that Israel’s actions have caused for Mr. Biden as he tries to reconcile his support for a stalwart ally with his own misgivings and increased pressure from the disillusioned American left.

To illustrate that dilemma: Mr. Clooney is scheduled to appear at a high-dollar June 15 fund-raiser for Mr. Biden in Los Angeles, with former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton in attendance.

Simon Halls, a spokesman for the actor, declined to comment about Mr. Clooney’s interaction with Mr. Ricchetti but said his client “has every intention of attending the fund-raiser.”

A White House spokesman had no comment on Mr. Clooney’s complaint, which was reported earlier by The Washington Post.

The United States and Israel are not members of the International Criminal Court, which is in The Hague. After the court’s chief prosecutor announced that he would seek the warrants on May 20, Mr. Biden sharply criticized the decision, saying “there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.”

In a statement posted on her family foundation’s website, Ms. Clooney said she had worked with the court’s prosecutors for four months “evaluating evidence of suspected war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Israel and Gaza.

Ms. Clooney, a Lebanon-born lawyer, worked as an investigator on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and prosecuted members of Hezbollah accused of assassinating Lebanon’s prime minister in 2005.

Last month, she co-signed an op-ed with other members of an I.C.C. advisory panel arguing that their investigation had found “reasonable grounds to believe” that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, “have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Their report found sufficient evidence to charge the Israeli leaders with the war crime of “intentionally using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare and the murder and persecution of Palestinians as crimes against humanity.”

The House voted mostly along party lines on Tuesday to impose sweeping sanctions on the I.C.C. by forcing Mr. Biden to restrict entry into the United States, revoke visas and impose financial restrictions on anyone at the court involved in trying to investigate, arrest, detain or prosecute “protected persons,” or allies of the United States. It would also target anyone who provides “financial, material or technological support” to those efforts.

Mr. Biden’s advisers said he “strongly opposed” the measure because it would impose sanctions on such a broad swath of officials, including court staff members and any witnesses involved in a potential case.

But it reflected cracks in the Democratic coalition, and broad bipartisan anger at the I.C.C., with 42 Democrats crossing party lines to support the Republican-backed measure.

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