After a cryptic tweet earlier today, Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, spilled the beans: a man that Avenatti says is Ahmed Al-Rumaihi—the head of a $100 billion Qatari investment fund—met with former Trump fixer Michael Cohen and former national security advisor Michael Flynn at Trump Tower in December 2016, before Trump took office.
For reference, here’s what al-Rumaihi looked like in 2012, when he was a deputy at Qatar’s embassy in Washington D.C.:
And here’s a screenshot from C-SPAN’s Trump Tower camera (the man purported to be al-Rumaihi is in the back):
Mother Jones has some more details on who al-Rumaihi is, and why we should care. Because the news in 2018 is a game of Mad Libs, that story bizarrely involves Ice Cube:
The photos include a person who appears to be al-Rumaihi, who in late 2016 and 2017 was part of an aggressive Qatari effort to forge ties with members of the Trump administration. It has not previously been reported that Qataris, including al-Rumaihi, met with Cohen in December 2016. Avenatti later followed up with another tweet asking why Cohen was meeting with Al-Rumaihi and Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor.
Ice Cube, the rapper and actor, and his business partner Jeff Kwatinetz recently filed a $1.2 billion lawsuit that includes an allegation that Al-Rumaihi and other Qatari officials attempted use an investment in the men’s BIG3 basketball league to gain access to Trump administration officials. “Mr Al-Rumaihi requested I set up a meeting between him, the Qatari government, and Stephen Bannon, and to tell Steve Bannon that Qatar would underwrite all of his political efforts in return for his support,” Kwatinetz said in the court filing.
“I immediately let Mr. Al-Rumaihi know I was offended by this request, that I was trying to run a basketball league and need our money paid, and I stated that neither I nor Steve Bannon would ever take, or even entertain the concept, of a bribe of any kind,” Kwatinetz said in a sworn declaration. “Mr. Al-Rumaihi laughed and then stated to me that I shouldn’t be naive, that so many Washington politicians take our money, and stated ‘do you think Flynn turned down our money?’”
After Flynn was fired, he registered as a foreign agent of Turkey and admitted he was paid to represent that country’s interests during the Trump campaign; meanwhile, Cohen did deals with corporations that could at best be described as Cohen trading his access to the president for money, and at worst, pay for play schemes. With that said, it’s unknown what the meeting was about, or if a formal meeting even happened; Mother Jones said that neither the Qatari embassy nor the Qatari Investment Authority, which Al-Rumaihi runs, responded to requests for comment.
On a somewhat related note, Politico reported last week that Qatar was looking to acquire a “major” stake in Newsmax, the conservative website whose CEO, Chris Ruddy, is a Trump confidante. Politico reported that the Qatari government views an investment into Newsmax “primarily as a political one.” (Ruddy responded to comment from Politico by saying “This is all false.”)
Politico also pointed out that Newsmax’ coverage of Qatari had drastically changed between last summer—when Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, after which Newsmax ran a story titled “Global Stability Can’t Afford Qatar’s Terror Investments—and this April, when Newsmax ran glowing coverage of a meeting between Trump and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatar’s head of state. Must be a coincidence.
Update, 5/14, 5:52 p.m.: A spokesperson for Sport Trinity—the company that Al-Rumaihi was allegedly attempting to use to entice Bannon—sent the following statement to Splinter after this story was published:
Simply put, the statements in Mr. Kwatinetz’s declaration are pure Hollywood fiction. Mr. Kwatinetz is engaging in a xenophobic PR smear campaign against Sport Trinity, the largest investor in BIG3 basketball, to cover up his own mismanagement and erratic behavior with respect to the league. Mr. Kwatinetz’s commercial dispute with Sport Trinity is meritless.