Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team began with a mandate to investigate Russia’s meddling in U.S. elections and alleged collusion by the Trump campaign. But a new report in The New York Times is raising questions about possible support of then-candidate Donald Trump by additional outside actors, including Israeli intelligence and social media specialists, and royalty from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Some familiar names are mentioned in the report, including the former head of Blackwater, Erik Prince; convicted pedophile and Middle East fixer (and now Mueller probe witness) George Nader; racist White House aide (and chronic sleeper) Stephen Miller; and Donald Trump Jr. Yes, Donald Jr. seems to have been involved in another shady meeting at Trump Tower, as shocking as that may sound.
According to the report:
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.
Prince, who met with a wealthy Russian fund manager in the Seychelles and then appears to have lied about it to Congress, arranged the Trump Tower meeting, the newspaper said. It’s not clear which, if any, of the plans discussed were put into action after the meeting, but the Times noted that Nader paid the Israeli social media specialist, Joel Zamel, up to $2 million after Trump was elected president.
Donald Trump Jr. said he turned down the offers of assistance.
Zamel’s company “employed several Israeli former intelligence officers, specialized in collecting information and shaping opinion through social media,” the report said. Zamel’s attorney said his client had no involvement in the U.S. elections.
Times reporters also noted that Mueller’s team appears to have been recently investigating the meeting and interviewing witnesses about it.
At the meeting, Nader reportedly discussed the desire by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia to support the Trump campaign:
Mr. Nader explained to Donald Trump Jr. that the two crown princes saw the elder Mr. Trump as a strong leader who would fill the power vacuum that they believed Mr. Obama had left in the Middle East, and Mr. Nader went on to say that he and his friends would be glad to support Mr. Trump as much as they could, according to the person with knowledge of the conversation.
After the election, Nader also helped arrange the Seychelles meeting between Prince, who is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ brother, and the representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
As the Times noted, it is illegal for foreign governments or individuals to be involved in U.S. elections. But I’m sure nothing really happened, as Don Jr. says. Right?