Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators have questioned an adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, the New York Times reported Saturday, in addition to questioning others about possible attempts by the UAE to buy political influence in the United States.
The Times’ report, which cited unnamed people familiar with knowledge of the discussions, comes on the heels of a Washington Post report that at least four countries — including the UAE — discussed ways they could influence White House adviser Jared Kushner by exploiting his “complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience,” in the Post’s words.
And NBC News reported Friday that Mueller is probing whether Kushner’s business-related discussions with foreigners during the presidential transition later affected White House policy.
The Times’ story focused on individual connections between the White House and the UAE: specifically, a Lebanese-American businessman, George Nader, and his role as an adviser to Mohammad, the deputy supreme commander of the Emirates’ military and the country’s de facto ruler, according to the paper.
In one instance, the Times reported, Nader received a memo later obtained by the paper detailing a meeting between Trump and one of his fundraisers, Elliot Broidy. According to the memo, the Times said, the pair discussed Broidy’s private security company, which has hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts with the UAE, and several other topics.
Broidy reportedly encouraged Trump to meet with Mohammad outside the White House in an “informal setting,” but White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster shot the idea down, the Times said, citing the memo.
According to the same memo — which a spokesperson for Broidy told the Times “had been stolen through sophisticated hacking,” in the Times’ words — Broidy encouraged Trump to fire Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
In one of his most public disagreements with Trump, Tillerson in June called on several Gulf states including the UAE to lift a blockade of Qatar. The Gulf states, and Trump, argued the blockade was justified by what they said was Qatar’s support of terrorism.
Nader “made frequent” trips to the White House in the administration’s early months and met often with former chief strategist Steve Bannon and adviser Jared Kushner, the Times reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the conversations.
The Times’ sources said Mueller’s team has asked interviewees about Nader’s role in White House policy-making. The paper noted Axios first reported on Mueller’s focus on Nader in January.
Nader and Broidy met sometime around Inauguration Day 2017, the Times reported, citing unnamed people familiar with their relationship. After that, Nader introduced Broidy to the crown prince. And after that, the Times’ sources said, Broidy signed several hundred million dollars worth of contracts with the UAE. Broidy sent Nader the memo covering his meeting with Trump by Oct. 6, the Times reported.