There really are so many twists to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Trump’s campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election.
This latest is like a secret passage behind a bookcase.
This evening, CNN is reporting on George Nader, a Middle East specialist with ties to Trump’s campaign team, who apparently was present in secret meetings between Trump associates and the United Arab Emirates during the transition.
George Nader, a low-profile diplomatic go-between who has forged close ties to the Emirates, was stopped and questioned by the FBI at Dulles International Airport in January as he returned from an overseas trip, these sources say. Since then, he has been talking to Mueller’s investigators and providing information to the grand jury.
Nader attended a December 2016 meeting in New York between Emirati officials and members of Trump’s inner circle, and another in January 2017 in the Seychelles islands between the Emiratis and Erik Prince, a Trump associate. Nader was also in the Seychelles when Prince met with a Russian banker, the sources said.
Tie this with the news from last week about White House senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner having his security clearance bumped down. This likely happened because intercepted communications picked up officials with Mexico, Israel, China and the United Arab Emirates gleefully sharing that Kushner was desperate for money and could be manipulated.
Mueller’s scope seems to be closing in on not just Russia, but a much broader picture of foreign entities having influence over the Trump administration.
After the FBI obtained warrants and searched Nader’s electronic devices, he was asked, and agreed to be questioned by Mueller on January 19.
Then there were the meetings that, for diplomatic purposes, you would expect then-President Obama to be in on (he wasn’t).
The December 2016 New York meeting occurred without the prior knowledge of the Obama administration. It was led by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. At least three members of the Trump team attended, including Kushner; Michael Flynn, then slated to become national security adviser; and Steve Bannon, strategist to the incoming President.
The existence of the meetings in New York and the Seychelles became public in report published by The Washington Post in April 2017, but much about them remains mysterious.
Nader attended a meeting in the Seychelles between the Emiratis and Prince, people familiar with the session told CNN. Nader was also present at the bar when Prince met with Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive of the state-run Russian Direct Investment Fund, although it is unclear whether he was involved in the conversation, these people say.
And there’s always a Russian in the mix, isn’t there?
I mean, it’s a big world, but somehow, when it comes to Trump, you take any off ramp and you’re going to run into a Russian.
After the New York meeting, Emirate officials set up the meeting between Prince and Dmitriev, the head of the Russian investment fund, in Seychelles.
And intelligence officials with both the U.S. and the Middle East took an interest in this meeting.
In private testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last year, Prince denied any wrongdoing and strongly denied that anyone on Trump’s team asked him to take the meeting. He said he was invited to the Seychelles by someone working for the crown prince and met with a group there for an hour. It was a member of the Emirati entourage, Prince said, who recommended he meet with Dmitriev to discuss business opportunities.
The meeting with Dmitriev, he said, lasted about a half hour after dinner over a beer.
I’m sure it was all very innocent. I mean, no matter how much smoke there is, we’re never to expect a fire, right?
Nader’s role is a lot harder to discern, but he’s met with Mueller’s team twice, so far, so he apparently has something of interest to the investigation.
One thing the CNN piece points out about Nader, a 58-year old Lebanese-American, is that he’s apparently a “man of mystery,” who keeps a low profile, but has the kind of contacts that allow him to move about freely in the Middle East and gives him access to a lot of people in power.
So what does he have that has sparked the interest of Mueller?
That part hasn’t been made known, but chances are, he knows something about the transition and he’s talking.