A top adviser to the United Arab Emirates who met repeatedly with aides to President Donald Trump during the presidential transition is cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, according to reports.
The New York Times reported Tuesday night that Mueller wants to know if George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who advises Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, funneled money from the UAE to the Trump campaign.
Nader’s cooperation offers critical new evidence that Mueller’s investigation has expanded beyond Russia’s influence operations in the 2016 election to the efforts other countries may have made to illegally curry favor with the Trump campaign.
Nader was served with search warrants and a grand jury subpoena on January 17 after arriving at Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport en route to a party at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida, according to the Times. The report says the FBI seized Nader’s electronics and questioned him for several hours, and that he has subsequently sat down for multiple rounds of questioning about his interactions with the Trump team, and has testified before the grand jury.
CNN reported that investigators were interested in Nader’s presence at a December 2016 New York meeting between Emirati officials and Trump advisers that was held without the Obama administration’s knowledge. Per CNN, Jared Kushner, national security adviser-designee Mike Flynn, and Trump strategist Steve Bannon were all present.
Another key focus of Mueller’s inquiry: Nader’s previously unreported presence at a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles attended by Russian fund manager Kirill Dmitriev and Blackwater founder and informal Trump adviser Erik Prince. The Times reported that Dmitriev was representing Russian President Vladimir Putin at that meeting and that the Emiratis believed Prince was standing in for the Trump transition. Nader, who previously worked as a consultant to Blackwater, was also at the meeting representing the Emirati Crown Prince, according to the Times.
In November testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Prince ardently denied that there was anything untoward about the Seychelles trip or that he served as an envoy for the Trump campaign. He testified that he had a drink with Dmitriev on the suggestion of the Emirati officials he came to the island country to meet, and that they discussed “oil and commodity prices,” but little about the incoming Trump administration.
The conversations between Trump associates and Nader did not end there. The Times reported that the Emirati adviser held “meetings in the White House” with Kushner and Bannon prior to the latter’s departure from the administration.
The UAE is reportedly one of at least four countries that has discussed ways to gain leverage over, and manipulate, Kushner.