DSK public relations strategy kicks into high gear

Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn strongly denied the attempted rape charges filed against him, in an e-mail to his former Fund colleagues Sunday. Strauss-Kahn's missive came as his lawyer gave interviews to French and Israeli media outlets vowing that his client would be exonerated.

The developments highlighted the major public relations campaign that the legal team representing Strauss-Kahn (who is known familiarly as DSK) intends to pursue. In a related development, The Envoy has learned more information about a Washington firm founded by former CIA officers that, according to a report from Reuters' Mark Hosenball, is consulting informally on PR matters with Strauss-Kahn's defense team.

"I deny in the strongest possible terms the allegations which I now face," Strauss-Kahn wrote in an e-mail forwarded to IMF staff Sunday evening by acting head John Lipsky, CNN's Nina dos Santos reported.

Meanwhile, DSK's lawyer, Benjamen Brafman, speaking from Israel, made the same claim. "He'll plead not guilty, and in the end he'll be acquitted," Brafman told Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Brafman also gave an interview from Israel to French national broadcaster TF1.

In their stateside PR push, DSK's attorneys have reportedly informally consulted with a firm called TD International. The Washington-based firm "is the same company Strauss-Kahn, then a private citizen, hired in 2007 to advise him on how to navigate international and Washington politics in his bid to become managing director of the International Monetary Fund," Hosenball reported.

The Envoy has learned that TD International's founder, William Green, was one of the CIA officers asked to leave France in 1995 in connection with a botched CIA operation.

Green was one of four U.S. officials asked to leave in the aftermath of the case, a source familiar with the case said on condition of anonymity.

He was the case officer in charge of the "turnover operation", the source said: when a female CIA officer working under non-official cover as a businesswoman in France was supposed to introduce a French official she had cultivated to a CIA handler. But French security services were monitoring the hotel where the turnover meeting was due to take place, the source said. Then French Interior Minister and counterintelligence chief Charles Pasqua publicly exposed the botched CIA operation in 1995, calling in then U.S. ambassador to France Pamela Harriman to complain.

"The French, breaching the traditional protocol in such cases, raised an uproar over the spying rather than letting the four accused spies working under diplomatic cover slip out of the cover for activities, as the phrase goes, 'incompatible with their diplomatic status,'" the New York Times reported in 1996.

But a second former U.S. official told The Envoy on condition of anonymity that Green was just a case officer in Paris, whose role in the case has been exaggerated. Virtually everything in the French press about the case was based on what Pasqua leaked to the press and it was meant to mislead, the former official described. He also said that Green's name is similar to that of a private American intelligence investigator who was working in Paris at that time on an issue of particular concern to Pasqua.

A query to TD International from The Envoy was not immediately returned.

Meanwhile, a French source involved in past French Socialist campaigns--who also spoke to The Envoy on condition of anonymity--speculated that the DSK defense strategy may well follow the familiar course of other attempted rape cases in Western legal systems: Attack the credibility of the 32-year-old West African-born hotel maid who brought the attempted rape charges against Strauss-Kahn. The aim would apparently be to contend that any sexual activity was consensual--a charge the maid's attorney Jeffrey Shapiro has fiercely denied. The French source also speculated DSK's public relations and juror selection strategy may also seek to play on Muslim and Jewish tensions (the maid is reportedly Muslim, and Strauss-Kahn is Jewish.)

Police interviewing all the Sofitel hotel staff where the alleged May 14 assault occurred said two other female hotel receptionists reported that Strauss-Kahn had tried to solicit them the day before. Both women reportedly refused his alleged invitations to join him in his room, a law enforcement source told CNN.

(Attorney Benjamin Brafman and his client Dominique Strauss-Kahn: Richard Drew/Pool/AP)