Donald Trump Jr. reportedly met with an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes three months before his father won the 2016 presidential election.
The New York Times reported Saturday that the small group who met with Trump Jr. Aug. 3, 2016 at Trump Tower included Arab princes’ emissary George Nader, Israeli social media specialist Joel Zamel and former Blackwater head Erik Prince.
The meeting “convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team” was arranged by Prince. Nader reportedly told Trump Jr. that the Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates crown princes were “eager” to help his father win the election. Zamel also boasted about his firm after it had already “drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort” to help elect Trump.
Although it’s “unclear whether such a proposal was executed” and “the details of who commissioned it remain in dispute,” Trump Jr. reportedly “responded approvingly” and Nader was quickly embraced as a Trump ally who began meeting frequently with Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn. NYT notes that Nader at the time was also “promoting a secret plan to use private contractors to destabilize Iran, the regional nemesis of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.”
After the election, Nader reportedly paid Zamel up to $2 million for unclear reasons, but NYT notes that a Zamel-tied company provided Nader with an “elaborate” presentation about the significance of social media campaigning to Trump’s win.
As Nader continues to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, the newly reported meetings are the first sign that countries besides Russia may have aided the Trump campaign.
Trump Jr. lawyer Alan Futerfas told NYT that “prior to the 2016 election, Donald Trump Jr. recalls a meeting with Erik Prince, George Nader and another individual who may be Joel Zamel. They pitched Mr. Trump Jr. on a social media platform or marketing strategy. He was not interested and that was the end of it.”
Zamel’s lawyer Marc L. Mukasey denied to NYT that there was “any involvement whatsoever in the U.S. election campaign.”
Nader lawyer Kathryn Ruemmler insisted to NYT that her client “has fully cooperated with the special counsel’s investigation and will continue to do so.” A senior official in Saudi Arabia who spoke to NYT said Nader was never employed in any capacity or authorized to speak for the crown prince.
Prince declined to provide comment to NYT. The White House did not return NYT’s request for comment.
Read the New York Times’ full report here.