Pair sought big contracts from Gulf princes in exchange for access to Trump: report

Pair sought big contracts from Gulf princes in exchange for access to Trump: report
© Greg Nash

Two American businessmen sought to leverage access to President TrumpDonald John TrumpFamily says Trump travel ban preventing mother from seeing dying son Saudi Arabia rejects Senate position on Khashoggi killing Five things to know about the Trump inauguration investigation MORE while angling for lucrative contracts from two Gulf countries wanting to shift U.S. foreign policy against Qatar, The Associated Press reported Monday.

GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy and businessman George Nader reportedly worked to catch the president's ear by passing along praise from the princes of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Broidy and Nader, who marketed themselves as having a back channel to the Oval Office, sought million-dollar contracts with the two Gulf countries for their efforts, according to the AP investigation, which included dozens of interviews as well as the review of hundreds of pages of leaked emails between the two men. 

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The New York Times reported earlier this year that Broidy and Nader had worked to push Emirati and Saudi interests in the White House to take a hard-line stance on Iran and Qatar.

According to the AP, this new tranche of emails further reveals their "ambitious, secretive lobbying effort to isolate Qatar and undermine the Pentagon’s longstanding relationship with the Gulf country."

The newswire had previously reported that Broidy and Nader sought to pass an anti-Qatar bill through Congress, while trying to hide their money trail related to such efforts. 

Chris Clark, one of Broidy's lawyers, pushed back on the AP report, saying it “is based on fraudulent and fabricated documents obtained from entities with a known agenda to harm Mr. Broidy.”

“To be clear, Mr. Nader is a U.S. citizen, and there is no evidence suggesting that he directed Mr. Broidy’s actions, let alone that he did so on behalf of a foreign entity,” Clark told the AP.

Broidy and his wife had filed a lawsuit in late March alleging the Qatari government has carried out a sophisticated disinformation campaign that aimed to tarnish his reputation. They did this, he argued, by hacking into his email accounts, stealing his data and then maliciously leaking the information to the press.

Some of the information passed on to the media outlets was forged, he said.

Nader’s lawyer, Kathryn Ruemmler, declined the AP's request for comment. A senior Saudi official, however, confirmed to the newswire that the government had discussions with Nader, but never signed any contracts with either Nader or Broidy.

Broidy, who wrote summaries of his two meetings with the president, says he shared the two princes’ messages with Trump, the documents show. 

According to these summaries, he tried to dissuade Trump from intervening on behalf of Qatar as well as quietly set up a meeting between Trump and the Abu Dhabi crown prince, Mohammed Bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi, who they referred to as “MBZ” their correspondence

Nader and Broidy were also working to get contracts with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

Neither Broidy nor Nader were reportedly registered with under the U.S. government’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a federal law that requires lobbyists to disclose their ties as well as political efforts done on behalf of foreign governments. FARA requires individuals who are working on behalf of foreign interests to register even if they do not get paid for such efforts — or they could face up to five years in prison or a maximum $10,000 fine.

Broidy has argued that he did not need to register under FARA because he carried out the anti-Qatar campaign on his own volition, the AP reports.

The AP notes that its investigation reveals that he was looking early on to receive contracts from his lobbying campaign. A spreadsheet from Broidy’s company, Circinus LLC. countries, lists the two princes as “clients” for the lobbying campaign.

“I have represented Mr. Broidy for many years. He has complied with all relevant laws, including FARA,” Clark said in a statement to the AP.

Broidy and Nader, who met during Trump’s inauguration, planned to prove that Qatar had a close relationship to Iran, Saudi’s regional rival, according to the report.

They planned to do this by providing evidence that Qatar supported Islamist extremist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, proposing $12 million plan to “expose and penalize” Qatar as well as get the U.S. to pressure the state into taking "coercive action against Iran,” the AP reported, citing a March 2017 document.

Shortly after Broidy met with the president, the UAE offered Broidy an intelligence contract that  would award him up to $600 million over the course of five years, the AP reports, citing a leaked email.

Broidy told Nader in January that he had received $36 million, the first installment of this deal.

“First among many to go!” Nader reportedly responded.

Broidy also wrote an analysis of Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia, detailing the progress of his lobbying efforts, the documents show. The recipient is redacted in some of the publicly released documents, but the AP reports it is Nader.

"We have introduced a fully integrated campaign that is yielding tremendous results," Broidy writes.

He then begins to highlight the possible contracts he could receive on behalf of Saudi Arabia, noting his access to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump names Mulvaney acting chief of staff On The Money: House GOP struggles to get votes for B in wall funds | Fallout from Oval Office clash | Dems say shutdown would affect 800K workers | House passes 7 billion farm bill Conservative leader Meadows will not be White House chief of staff MORE.

“I can help in educating Mnuchin on the importance of the Treasury Department putting many Qatari individuals and organizations on the applicable sanctions lists,” Broidy said in an email to Nader.

"My Goals, Circinus' goals and the Goals of Saudi Arabia are completely aligned," he added.

After the UAE and Saudi Arabia began their blockade last year, Trump sent out tweets that indicating Qatar was behind "funding extremism."

“[Saudi Arabia] said they would take a hard line on funding extremism and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to horror of terrorism!” Trump tweeted last June.

The news wire reports that their anti-Qatar efforts appear to have lost momentum. A senior official told the AP the Saudi Prince had ordered an end to “engagement with these people.”

Broidy, however, is also one of Cohen’s clients. He has admitted to trying to pay 1.6 million to silence Playboy Playmate Shera Bechard, after having an affair with her.

The report comes amid scrutiny about contacts between Trump associates and Qatari officials during the 2016 presidential election.

Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, offered Qatari government officials access to the president in exchange for at least $1 million, The Washington Post reported last week.

The proposed arrangement came shortly around the time Qatari officials visited Trump Tower to meet with Trump's then-national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Nader is now reportedly cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller's team of investigators, who are said to be examining foreign influence inside the Trump White House.

—Updated at 7:31 p.m.