The New York Times reported on Saturday that George Nader – an advisor to the de facto ruler of the UAE – has been questioned “for information about any possible attempts by the Emiratis to buy political influence by directing money to support Mr Trump during the presidential campaign, according to people with knowledge of the discussions”.
Nader, who is described as a White House regular, allegedly took part in discussions of American foreign policy in the Gulf region with then-chief strategist Stephen Bannon and senior advisor Jared Kushner shortly after Trump took office.
The Times report highlighted the existence of a memo sent to Nader by Elliot Broidy, a top Republican fund-raiser, allegedly confirming attempts to implement US policies in favour of the UAE.
Broidy’s private security company, Circinus, has reportedly signed deals with the UAE government that run in the hundreds of millions of dollars since Trump’s inauguration.
Broidy allegedly tried to arrange a one-on-one meeting between Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and Trump in “an informal setting” – only to be rebuked by National Security Advisor HR McMaster.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, former US deputy attorney-general Bruce Fein said while it is not necessarily illegal for foreign governments to try to influence policy, these efforts have to be documented.
“The third party has to register under the foreign agent registration act and has to disclose to the public when they speak that they’re acting on behalf of a foreign government. That doesn’t seem to happen in this particular case,” said Fein.
The Times report is significant because for the first time a country other than Russia has been linked to the political influence investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“The fact that you have so many foreign countries implicated here … shows the jeopardy of trying to mix government and business. But the fact that you have these governments making the effort shows they think that there’s a possibility of succeeding, otherwise they wouldn’t be wasting their time,” Fein said.
The Washington Post reported last month that four countries, including the UAE, may have attempted to exploit Kushner’s lack of experience and his family’s business debt to influence the US administration’s policies.