Why the George Nader story is potentially so significant
Over the past few days a number of details have emerged about the Mueller-led “Russia” investigation’s interest in the Trump campaign’s dealings in the middle-east, most particularly with the United Arab Emirates. What does the UAE have to do with the Russia investigation? Potentially quite a bit. The direct tie is due to one George Nader, a Lebanese-American member of the Trump circus who seems to have been a quite active arranger for Trump and his family, particularly, Jared Kushner.
According to New York Times reporting, Nader was returning to the US on 17 January, 2018, when he was met by FBI agents at Dulles airport with search warrants and a subpoena. Nader was in transit to Florida for the celebration of Trump’s first year in office at Mar-a-Largo. But he was stopped by the FBI, who confiscated all his electronics, questioned him at length and almost immediately turned him into a cooperating witness for the Mueller investigation. He’s already made at least one appearance before Mueller’s grand jury.
The fact that the FBI apparently presented him with evidence against him serious enough to compel immediate cooperation suggests that Mueller’s team were not merely looking for further leads in their investigation. Why might he be important enough to warrant such attention? As both the Times and CNN have explained, Nader was a participant and perhaps even the convener of the Trump Transition team’s meeting in the Seychelles which brought together a representative of President Trump (Erik Prince) with representatives of both Russian President Putin and the government of the United Arab Emirates. He continued to have on-going contact with the Trump White House. Most importantly appears to have been an interlocutor with Jared Kushner in Kushner’s dealings with Gulf states, which connect up with Kushner family’s failed attempt to secure a loan from Qatar and subsequent Kushner green-lighting of the Saudi/UAE blockade of Qatar. While the other Gulf states had their own clear motives for punishing Qatar, the fact the Kushner backed Qatar’s diplomatic isolation after failing to get money from its sovereign investment fund to bail-out his own family’s real estate debts, suggests a level of potential criminal corruption within the White House that is clearly legally actionable. And Nader may well be a key witness in this particular focus of the investigation. Mueller’s investigators are also reportedly examining whether Nader helped facilitate illegal transfers of foreign funds to the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.
The Nader story suggests that:
1. all those observers who have been saying that Mueller appears to be mainly pursuing an obstruction investigation against Trump rather than a collusion (or more accurately, a conspiracy against the United States) investigation are wrong. Mueller seems to be pursuing very serious investigations into alleged crimes which have nothing to do with obstruction of justice on the part the President. He is likely to be pursuing the obstruction angle as well, but those expressed fears/hopes that there was evidence of a pattern of obstruction but no evidence of the crimes that the obstruction was meant to hide, seem to me to be wrong. Mueller is investigating both serious crimes and the subsequent conspiracy to hide them.
2. there are clearly sovereign actors involved in addition to Russia. The UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey may all be involved, if not as primary actors than as targets or collateral damage – Qatar for instance, which Kushner tried to shakedown for a half billion or more to save his family business and the subsequent blockade by the rest of the Gulf states. And Michael Flynn’s story is as tied to Turkey as it is Russia. Thereare indications here that the Trump administrations actions in the Middle East,which we’ve known to involve Kushner’s money begging, are connected with Russia’s efforts to cultivate the Trump syndicate as well as interfere in the 2016 election. Personally, I’ve been very skeptical of the maximal interpretations of the Qatar story which connects Kushner’s money troubles with Russia and the Steele Dossier. But maybe there is something there: Mueller’s recent tack in the investigation suggests there might be.
3. Jared Kushner’s finances and activities are as much a part of this as Donald Trump’s and may go places even Trump did not. Losing his security clearance might be the least of Kushner’s worries.