WASHINGTON - Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating attempts by the United Arab Emirates to influence the Trump administration's foreign policy, according to a bombshell report published on Saturday by the New York Times. The report says that Mueller is specifically interested in the actions of George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman and an adviser to the UAE's crown prince.
According to the report, Nader has visited the White House frequently over the last year, and has enjoyed access to senior officials such as Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, and Steve Bannon, who was Trump's senior political adviser until last fall. Nader tried to influence the administration's policies towards the UAE's regional enemies, such as Iran and Qatar.
An adviser to a foreign leader is not legally barred from advocating for policies preferred by that leader. Yet according to the New York Times report, "Mueller’s investigators have questioned Nader and have pressed witnesses for information about any possible attempts by the Emiratis to buy political influence by directing money to support Trump during the presidential campaign, according to people with knowledge of the discussions."
Such an allegation, if proven to be true, would mean that the UAE broke American election laws that forbid foreign nations from trying to sway the elections through financial means. The mere suspicion that such an effort took place could explain why the issue is being investigated by Mueller, whose official responsibility is to investigate Russia's involvement in the 2016 election. So far, Mueller has indicted 19 people as a result of his investigation into Russia's election meddling.
This is not the first time that Mueller has expressed interest in events that involve the Trump administration's Middle East policy. Mueller has obtained the cooperation of Trump's former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, after indicting him of lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. regarding the Kremlin's position on a December 2016 United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Mueller is also looking into attempts by Kushner to block that resolution, which eventually passed overwhelmingly despite Trump's opposition to it.
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The paper obtained a memo that Broidy sent Nader last year after meeting with Trump in the White House, detailing his attempts to persuade the president to adopt pro-UAE policies.
The paper noted that it received the memo from "someone critical of the Emirati influence in Washington." In the memo, Broidy wrote that he had lobbied Trump to meet Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the UAE's crown prince, in a private, informal setting, outside of the White House, but ran into opposition from Trump's National Security Adviser, General H.R. McMaster.
"Broidy wrote that he had twice told McMaster that the crown prince preferred an informal setting to meet one on one with President Trump," the report said. "But General McMaster... smiled and replied that heads of state usually meet in the White House, as protocol dictates.”