The New York Times reported on April 4, 2018, that Nader has a history of dealings with Russia dating back to at least 2012, when he brokered a $4.2 billion arms deal between Russia and Iraq, and attended an invitation-only conference in Moscow organized by close associates of Vladimir Putin. Nader has reportedly traveled frequently to Russia on behalf of the UAE, accompanying MBZ on many of those trips, and has had his photo taken with Putin. Nader has reportedly received at least partial immunity for his cooperation with the Mueller investigation. The Times also reported that Joel Zamel had been stopped at Reagan International Airport in February 2018, had his electronic devices briefly seized, and later testified before the Mueller grand jury about his relationship with Nader. The New York Times reported on May 19, 2018, that Trump Jr. met with Nader, Prince and Zamel in Trump Tower on August 3, 2016. Nader reportedly told Trump Jr. the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE were eager to help his father win the election. According to Trump Jr.'s attorney Alan Futerfas, Zamel pitched a social media manipulation campaign from his Israeli company Psy-Group, although Zamel's attorney Marc Mukasey denied this. Trump Jr. reportedly responded favorably according to one source, although Futerfas denied this. Nader subsequently had frequent meetings with Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner. After Trump's election, Nader paid Zamel a large sum of money of up to $2 million. The Times reported that Prince had arranged the August 2016 meeting; Prince had stated in his November 30, 2017, testimony to the House Intelligence Committee that he had no formal communications or contact, nor any unofficial role, with the Trump campaign. The Times reported on October 8, 2018, that sometime after March 2016 Rick Gates had solicited Psy-Group to present proposals for social media manipulation and opposition research against Trump's primary opponents and Hillary Clinton. Gates reportedly was uninterested in the Psy-Group proposals, as social media strategy was being developed inside the Trump campaign, and there is no evidence the Trump campaign pursued the Psy-Group proposals. The Mueller investigation obtained copies of the proposals and questioned Psy-Group employees.
The New York Times reported on March 3, 2018, that the Mueller investigation had been examining possible efforts by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to buy political influence by directing money to the Trump campaign. Investigators had recently interviewed Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, and other witnesses, about this matter. Nader was reportedly a frequent White House visitor during 2017 and investigators have inquired about any policymaking role he may have had. Investigators have examined a meeting around January 11, 2017, in the Seychelles that was convened by the UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (known as "MBZ"), which Nader attended. Also present at that meeting were Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of state-owned Russian Direct Investment Fund, who is close to Vladimir Putin; and Blackwater founder Erik Prince, a major Trump donor and an informal advisor to the Trump transition. UAE officials reportedly believed that Prince was representing the Trump transition and Dmitriev was representing Putin. The Mueller report later found that Nader had represented Prince to Dmitriev as "designated by Steve [Bannon] to meet you! I know him and he is very very well connected and trusted by the New Team," while Prince "acknowledged that it was fair for Nader to think that Prince would pass information on to the Transition Team," although Bannon told investigators that Prince had not informed him of the Dmitriev meeting in advance. Prince testified to the House Intelligence Committee that "I didn't fly there to meet any Russian guy," although the Mueller report found that he and Nader made significant preparations to meet Dmitriev. Although Prince characterized a second meeting between him and Dmitriev in a hotel bar as a chance encounter of no consequence, the meeting was actually pre-arranged after Prince had learned from calls back home that Russia had moved an aircraft carrier off Libya and he wanted to convey that the United States would not accept any Russian involvement in Libya.More Info
Trump told reporters on January 24, 2018, that he was "looking forward" to testifying under oath to the Mueller investigation, perhaps in "two or three weeks", but added that it was "subject to my lawyers and all of that". The Wall Street Journal reported on February 25, 2018, that Trump's lawyers are considering ways for him to testify, provided the questions he faces are limited in scope and do not test his recollections in ways that amount to a potential perjury trap. Among options they are considering are providing written answers to Mueller's questions and having the president give limited face-to-face testimony. The Washington Post reported on March 19, 2018, that Trump's attorneys provided Mueller's office "written descriptions that chronicle key moments under investigation in hopes of curtailing the scope of a presidential interview." In May 2018, Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Politico that Mueller's team has rejected the proposal of providing a written testimony instead of an oral interview. Trump ultimately was not personally interviewed by the special counsel. In November 2018 he said he was preparing written answers to a set of questions, and in late November his legal team said he had submitted answers to the counsel's written questions about "issues regarding the Russia-related topics of the inquiry."More Info
Transactions under investigation include Russian purchases of Trump apartments, a SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, transactions with the Bank of Cyprus, real estate financing organized by Kushner, and Trump's sale of a Florida mansion for $30 million over its appraised value to Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev. The special counsel team has contacted Deutsche Bank, which is the main banking institution doing business with The Trump Organization. The Wall Street Journal reported on December 6, 2017, that Deutsche Bank received a subpoena from Mueller's office earlier that fall concerning people or entities affiliated with President Trump. The original Journal story incorrectly reported that Trump's records had been subpoenaed, which The New York Times reported on April 10, 2018 prompted Trump to tell his advisers "in no uncertain terms" that the Mueller investigation must be shut down, before Mueller's office advised his attorneys the report was inaccurate.More Info
The New York Times reported on March 28, 2018, that in 2017, as the Mueller investigation was building its cases against Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, former Trump attorney John M. Dowd broached the idea of presidential pardons of the men with their attorneys. The Times reported this might have indicated concerns by Trump's legal team about what the men might reveal to investigators if they agreed to cooperate with the investigation in exchange for leniency. Although legal opinions vary as to whether this discussion alone would constitute obstruction of justice, prosecutors might present it as part of a pattern of activity that points to a conspiracy to thwart the investigation. CBS News reported on March 28, 2018, that Manafort is declining a plea deal and proceeding to trial because he is expecting a pardon from Trump, citing "legal sources with knowledge of his strategy". In May 2019, an unredacted version of a December 2018 government sentencing memo for Flynn showed that he advised investigators that both before and after his guilty plea "he or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the Administration or Congress that could have affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation."More Info
Agents with search warrants copied the contents of Nader's electronic devices and served him with a subpoena to appear before a grand jury on January 19. CNN also reported that Nader had attended a December 2016 meeting in New York attended by MBZ; UAE ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba; and at least three Trump senior associates: Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, and Jared Kushner. The Wall Street Journal reported on April 2, 2018, that Mueller's investigators have inquired about the work done by a private consulting company, Wikistrat, on behalf of the UAE. One of the firm's co-founders, Joel Zamel, has reportedly been asked about his work with certain clients and his business relationship with George Nader. The Journal reported that, like Nader, Zamel had tried to forge a relationship with the new Trump administration.More Info
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