UAE officials identified as go-betweens in Mueller report

UAE officials identified as go-betweens in Mueller report
A heavily-redacted version of the long-awaited 448-page document was released on Thursday. It shows that UAE officials were instrumental in connecting members of the Trump campaign with Russian agents.

4 min read
18 April, 2019
The report highlights repeatedly refers to Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan [Getty]

Several top officials from the United Arab Emirates have been identified in special counsel Robert Mueller's long-awaited report into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.

A heavily-redacted version of the long-awaited 448-page document was released on Thursday. It shows that UAE officials were instrumental in connecting members of the Trump campaign with Russian agents.

This does not suggest any wrongdoing by Abu Dhabi, but serves to illustrate the influence and networks that some envoys from the Gulf have in Washington, particularly under the administration of US President Donald Trump.

Neither the UAE embassy in Washington nor its UN mission responded to The New Arab's requests for comment.

The report repeatedly refers to Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the UAE's de facto ruler, and one of his advisers, Lebanese-American businessman George Nader.

It also describes Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia's sovereign wealth fund and an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as seeking out members of the incoming Trump administration in the weeks after the November 2016 election.

"Dmitriev asked a close business associate who worked for the UAE royal court, George Nader, to introduce him to Trump transition officials, and Nader eventually arranged a meeting in the Seychelles between Dmitriev and Erik Prince," the report says.

Prince, a security contractor who is the brother of the current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, was then a Trump campaign supporter and an associate of Steve Bannon, Trump's former White House chief strategist.

In January 2017, Dmitriev and his wife stayed at the Four Seasons Resort in the Seychelles with Nader and the crown prince, the report says. Prince and Dmitriev met in Nader's presence for between 30-45 minutes.

'Shared business opportunities'

The report cited contradictory remarks about the outcome of discussions, but comments from Prince, Bannon and Dmitriev suggest that it did not lead to sustained cooperation between Moscow and the transition team.

After a second meeting, Dmitriev told Nader that he was "disappointed in his meetings with Prince", saying he wanted an interlocutor with "more authority" and to cover subjects of "greater substance", including a "roadmap" for future US-Russia ties.

The report highlights another effort by Dmitriev to connect with the Trump transition team via the UAE officials.

"In approximately late November 2016, the UAE national security adviser introduced Dmitriev to Rick Gerson, a friend of Jared Kushner who runs a hedge fund in New York," the report says, also referencing Trump's son-in-law Kushner.

According to the report, this meeting mostly addressed shared business opportunities.

While the document refers to the UAE's national security adviser, it does not identify the individual by name, and US-based UAE diplomats did not respond to The New Arab's queries about this.

The lengthy document is the product of a 22-month probe by Mueller – who was appointed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

His team's inquiry has led to 35 people being charged, including several who were a part of the president's campaign and administration.

But the inquiry found no evidence that Trump's 2016 campaign team engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Moscow, and Mueller could not draw a conclusion on whether Trump committed obstruction of justice.

Trump's attorney general William Barr subsequently concluded that Trump did not commit the crime, but Mueller's full report recounted 10 episodes involving Trump and evaluated whether obstruction of justice occurred.

Democrats said the report contained disturbing evidence of wrongdoing by Trump that could fuel congressional investigations, but there was no immediate suggestion they would seek his removal from office through impeachment.

Trump appeared to be in a celebratory mood on Thursday, saying at a White House event with wounded US troops that he was "having a good day" following the report's release, adding: "It's called no collusion, no obstruction."

Trump has repeatedly called Mueller's inquiry a "witch hunt."

James Reinl is a journalist, editor and current affairs analyst. He has reported from more than 30 countries and won awards for covering wars in Sri Lanka, Congo and Somalia, Haiti's earthquake and human rights abuses in Iran.

Follow him on Twitter: @jamesreinl