Netanyahu-backer named in new probe into UAE attempts to influence Trump: report
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly examining attempts by the United Arab Emirates to influence the foreign policy agenda of US President Donald Trump, including his meeting with a prominent backer of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who holds hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business interests in the UAE, some of which are linked to the country's leadership.
An explosive new report published by The New York Times on Saturday says that Mueller is looking specifically at the actions of George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman and an adviser to the UAE's crown prince.
According to the report, Nader visited the White House on several occasions over the past year and has had access to some of Trump’s top advisers, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner and former chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Mueller, the Times says, is investigating whether Nader used his proximity to Trump’s inner circle to attempt to influence the president’s policies towards the UAE’s regional foes, including Iran and Qatar.
Also cited in the report is Elliot Broidy, a Jewish-American millionaire and prominent supporter of the Republican Jewish Coalition and of Netanyahu, who the Times says has hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business interests in the UAE, including a number of contracts tied to the country’s leadership.
The Times report described a memo sent from Broidy to Nader last year, obtained from "someone critical of the Emirati influence in Washington", which details Broidy’s attempts to persuade Trump to adopt pro-UAE policies and to meet with UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in a private, informal setting outside the White House -- an idea that was opposed by Trump's National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster.
Nader has already been questioned by Mueller in connection with the probe and his team has pressed witnesses for any possible information on attempts by the UAE to curry favor with the Trump administration through campaign donations or other financial contributions, the Times report said, citing “people with knowledge of the discussions.”
While it is not illegal for an adviser to a foreign leader to lobby for policies preferred by that leader, it is against US election laws for a foreign national to attempt to sway American elections through financial means.
Mueller is leading a wide-ranging probe into possible interference in the 2016 presidential election, previously focused on allegations of Russia’s meddling in the vote which saw political novice Trump rise to power, defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton.
So far, 19 people have been indicted by Mueller’s team in connection with the probe.
The Trump administration’s Middle East policy has been a subject of additional interest to Mueller, who is examining Jared Kushner's contacts with Israel during the Trump presidential transition as well as his efforts to get foreign investors to provide financing for his company during that time.
Mueller's chief concerns are the reported overtures made in December 2016 by Israeli figures to Kushner and other senior staffers on Trump's transition team concerning a United Nations Security Council vote condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Last week, the Washington Post reported that at least four foreign governments -- the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico -- had wondered how to manipulate Kushner's business and political vulnerabilities, including lack of experience on the international stage.
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