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Trump Jr. and Other Aides Met With Gulf Emissary Offering Help to Win Election

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By Mark Mazzetti, Ronen Bergman and David D. Kirkpatrick

May 19, 2018

WASHINGTON — "Three months before the 2016 election, a small group gathered at Trump Tower to meet with Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son. One was an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. Another was an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes. The third was a Republican donor with a controversial past in the Middle East as a private security contractor.

The meeting was convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team, and it forged relationships between the men and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months — past the election and well into President Trump’s first year in office, according to several people with knowledge of their encounters.

Erik Prince, the private security contractor and the former head of Blackwater, arranged the meeting, which took place on Aug. 3, 2016. The emissary, George Nader, told Donald Trump Jr. that the princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president. The social media specialist, Joel Zamel, extolled his company’s ability to give an edge to a political campaign; by that time, the firm had already drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump.

The company, which employed several Israeli former intelligence officers, specialized in collecting information and shaping opinion through social media.

It is unclear whether such a proposal was executed, and the details of who commissioned it remain in dispute. But Donald Trump Jr. responded approvingly, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting, and after those initial offers of help, Mr. Nader was quickly embraced as a close ally by Trump campaign advisers — meeting frequently with Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, and Michael T. Flynn, who became the president’s first national security adviser. At the time, Mr. Nader was also promoting a secret plan to use private contractors to destabilize Iran, the regional nemesis of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.

After Mr. Trump was elected, Mr. Nader paid Mr. Zamel a large sum of money, described by one associate as up to $2 million. There are conflicting accounts of the reason for the payment, but among other things, a company linked to Mr. Zamel provided Mr. Nader with an elaborate presentation about the significance of social media campaigning to Mr. Trump’s victory.

The meetings, which have not been reported previously, are the first indication that countries other than Russia may have offered assistance to the Trump campaign in the months before the presidential election. The interactions are a focus of the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, who was originally tasked with examining possible Trump campaign coordination with Russia in the election.

Mr. Nader is cooperating with the inquiry, and investigators have questioned numerous witnesses in Washington, New York, Atlanta, Tel Aviv and elsewhere about what foreign help may have been pledged or accepted, and about whether any such assistance was coordinated with Russia, according to witnesses and others with knowledge of the interviews.

The interviews, some in recent weeks, are further evidence that special counsel’s investigation remains in an intense phase even as Mr. Trump’s lawyers are publicly calling for Mr. Mueller to bring it to a close.

It is illegal for foreign governments or individuals to be involved in American elections, and it is unclear what — if any — direct assistance Saudi Arabia and the Emirates may have provided. But two people familiar with the meetings said that Trump campaign officials did not appear bothered by the idea of cooperation with foreigners.

A lawyer for Donald Trump Jr., Alan Futerfas, said in a statement that “prior to the 2016 election, Donald Trump Jr. recalls a meeting with Erik Prince, George Nader and another individual who may be Joel Zamel. They pitched Mr. Trump Jr. on a social media platform or marketing strategy. He was not interested and that was the end of it.”

The August 2016 meeting has echoes of another Trump Tower meeting two months earlier, also under scrutiny by the special counsel, when Donald Trump Jr. and other top campaign aides met with a Russian lawyer after being promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton. No evidence has emerged suggesting that the August meeting was set up with a similar premise.

The revelations about the meetings come in the midst of new scrutiny about ties between Mr. Trump’s advisers and at least three wealthy Persian Gulf states. Besides his interest in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, Mr. Mueller has also been asking witnesses about meetings between White House advisers and representatives of Qatar, Saudi Arabia’s bitter rival.

A lawyer for Mr. Zamel denied that his client had carried out any campaign on Mr. Trump’s behalf. “Neither Joel Zamel, nor any of his related entities, had any involvement whatsoever in the U.S. election campaign,” said the lawyer, Marc L. Mukasey.

“The D.O.J. clarified from Day 1 that Joel and his companies have never been a target of the investigation. My client provided full cooperation to the government to assist with their investigation,” he said.

Kathryn Ruemmler, a lawyer for Mr. Nader, said, “Mr. Nader has fully cooperated with the special counsel’s investigation and will continue to do so.” A senior official in Saudi Arabia said it had never employed Mr. Nader in any capacity or authorized him to speak for the crown prince.

Mr. Prince, through a spokesman, declined to comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Advisers to the Court
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, the king’s main adviser, had long opposed many of the Obama administration’s policies toward the Middle East. They resented President Barack Obama’s agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, his statements of support for the Arab Spring uprisings and his hands-off approach to the Syrian civil war.

News outlets linked to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates fiercely criticized Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent, when she was secretary of state, and diplomats familiar with their thinking say both princes hoped for a president who would take a stronger hand in the region against both Iran and groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr. Nader had worked for years as a close adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed of Abu Dhabi, and Mr. Zamel had worked for the Emirati royal court as a consultant as well. When Mr. Trump locked up the Republican presidential nomination in early 2016, Mr. Nader began making inquiries on behalf of the Emirati prince about possible ways to directly support Mr. Trump, according to three people with whom Mr. Nader discussed his efforts.

Mr. Nader also visited Moscow at least twice during the presidential campaign as a confidential emissary from Crown Prince Mohammed of Abu Dhabi, according to people familiar with his travels. After the election, he worked with the crown prince to arrange a meeting in the Seychelles between Mr. Prince and a financier close to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Companies connected to Mr. Zamel also have ties to Russia. One of his firms had previously worked for oligarchs linked to Mr. Putin, including Oleg V. Deripaska and Dmitry Rybolovlev, who hired the firm for online campaigns against their business rivals.

Mr. Deripaska, an aluminum magnate, was once in business with the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who has pleaded not guilty in the special counsel investigation to charges of financial crimes and failing to disclose the lobbying work he did on behalf of a former president of Ukraine, an ally of Mr. Putin. Mr. Rybolovlev once purchased a Florida mansion from Mr. Trump.

Mr. Nader’s visits to Russia and the work Mr. Zamel’s companies did for the Russians have both been a subject of interest to the special counsel’s investigators, according to people familiar with witness interviews..."

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https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/19/us/politics/trump-jr-saudi-uae-nader-prince-zamel.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

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Everybody's all outraged about the Russians covertly attempting to influence public opinion in the US .... but nobody bats an eye when Israel and the Saudis do it. The Israeli's, in fact, have had a very long history of actively and covertly attempting to foment pro-Israeli political sentiment among the American public.

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EmeraldGhost wrote:Everybody's all outraged about the Russians covertly attempting to influence public opinion in the US .... but nobody bats an eye when Israel and the Saudis do it.   The Israeli's, in fact, have had a very long history of actively and covertly attempting to foment pro-Israeli political sentiment among the American public.  


The Observer
Revealed: Trump team hired spy firm for ‘dirty ops’ on Iran arms deal

Israeli agency told to find incriminating material on Obama diplomats who negotiated deal with Tehran

"Aides to Donald Trump, the US president, hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a “dirty ops” campaign against key individuals from the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal, the Observer can reveal.

People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to “get dirt” on Ben Rhodes, who had been one of Barack Obama’s top national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal.

The extraordinary revelations come days before Trump’s 12 May deadline to either scrap or continue to abide by the international deal limiting Iran’s nuclear programme..."

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/may/05/trump-team-hired-spy-firm-dirty-ops-iran-nuclear-deal

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Dirty ops for a dirty deal... sounds fair. We likely still don't know all of the details that Obama tried to hide.

https://www.politico.com/interactives/2017/obama-hezbollah-drug-trafficking-investigation/

http://wjla.com/news/nation-world/new-details-emerge-iran-nuclear-agreement

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/obama-officials-insisted-iran-had-to-come-clean-on-nukes-now-they-say-its-old-news-that-iran-was-lying-all-along

https://www.usatoday.com/amp/34700171

President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal should be viewed as condign punishment for the disingenuous way Barack Obama and his staff sold the agreement to the American public.

The deal does not “cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.” Once the regime perfects advanced centrifuges, which is allowed under the accord, the Islamic Republic’s nuclear-weapons ambitions cannot be checked. By 2025, Tehran can start assembling these models.

These high-velocity machines require small cascades. Without an extraordinarily lucky human-source intelligence penetration or sloppy Iranian telecommunications, American intelligence services would have no ability to find them hidden in warehouses.

As the former No. 2 at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Olli Heinonen, has doggedly pointed out, the Iranians already may have a substantial secret stockpile of component parts for advanced centrifuges. The Obama administration chose to ignore this real possibility, as it chose to ignore most of the “possible military dimension” concerns that should have been at the heart of a real arms-control agreement.

To Trump’s credit, he has chosen not to ignore the deal’s counterproductive sunset clauses, which make restrictions on Iran temporary. He hasn’t ignored that Revolutionary Guard bases, where we know Iran has engaged in nuclear-weapons research, are now effectively off-limits to inspectors.

He is not ignoring the regime’s development of long-range ballistic missiles that only makes sense if armed with atomic warheads. He is not ignoring the strategic and moral absurdity that monies delivered to Iran under the deal abet Tehran’s imperialism, especially its savage campaign in Syria, which has now claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

Stunningly, Trump is not doing what democracies almost always do: Punt problems down the road, where they inevitably become far worse.

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