George Nader is a mysterious business man who has stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the connections between Russia and the Trump 2016 presidential campaign.
Nader, a 58 year old who was born in Lebanon, came to America when he was a teen. He dropped out of Cleveland State University and started a magazine that would come to be called Middle East Insight. According to the archives of Nader’s website, the purpose of the magazine was to provide a spectrum of views on the Middle East, to enlighten public opinion and to promote better understanding between the American people and the peoples of the Middle East. The magazine featured interviews with prominent U.S. and Middle Eastern leaders.
He had a knack for developing contacts, Newsweek reports.
He developed a reputation as a “shadowy” figure, said Shibley Telhami, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor at the University of Maryland. “It was hard to know if he had a political agenda, whether this was a political opportunist or whether he was trying to make money,” he said. “He wanted to connect with power and clearly reach out to people he thought were power players.”
In the early 2000’s, Nader dropped out of sight completely, served a year in a Czeck prison for 10 counts of abusing minors, and reemerged later as an adviser to the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Zayed.
While it is unclear exactly how Nader made connections with Trump officials, Nader was a frequent visitor in the early days of the Trump Administration and is connected to important people and events in the Trump presidential campaign. He is said to have met with Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner and worked with Elliot Broidy to lobby for policies that were positive for his business dealings, according to Vox. Nader also worked as a “business-development consultant” with Blackwater, a private security company founded by Erik Prince.
Most notably for the purposes of the Russia investigation, Nader is known for two important meetings.
One being the December 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Kushner, Emerati Crown Prince bin Zayed, Steve Bannon, and Michael Flynn. It has recently been revealed by the New York Times that Donald Trump, Jr. also attended that meeting.
The second notable meeting is the Seychelles meeting which Nader helped set up between Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater security firm and brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian banker and Putin confidante. This meeting took place just days before the Trump inauguration in January 2017 and allegedly was to establish a back channel of communication between the Kremlin and the Trump administration.
Nader was stopped by the FBI in January 2018 at Dulles Airport and questioned. He is cooperating with Mueller, having met with the special counsel at least twice, and the New York Times reported that Nader has been given immunity in exchange for his cooperation. CNN reports that Mueller is very interested in the information Nader can share.
The FBI agents with search warrants imaged his electronic devices and then served him with a grand jury subpoena ordering him to appear January 19, according to a person familiar with Nader’s involvement. An agreement was reached that Nader appear for questioning with Mueller’s investigators.
While there is no indication that Nader is suspected of wrongdoing, his knowledge of key meetings involving the Emiratis and others could be helpful to the special counsel in understanding the inner workings of the transition and possible efforts to influence key figures in the administration.
Erik Prince’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee regarding the Seychelles meeting conflicts with Nader’s account of the Seychelles meeting – Prince neglected to mention that Nader was present and involved in the arranging of the meeting. This disparity between the two accounts is likely at the heart of Nader’s importance to Mueller.
George Nader is a name to keep an eye on through the next phase of the Russia investigation. He has ties with many of the major players and events in the Russia investigation and will likely be playing a large role as the special counsel’s investigation expands from Russian interference in the 2016 election to the impact other foreign powers such as the UAE had on the Trump campaign.
Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ)