Trump's other foreign collusion scandal: Abu Dhabi's dollars

Trump's other foreign collusion scandal: Abu Dhabi's dollars
Comment: Government-by-highest-bidder has reached foreign policy, with UAE paymasters spending millions to influence Congress and the White House against Qatar, writes CJ Werleman.
5 min read
29 Mar, 2018
UAE and US ties have strengthened under Trump [Getty]
That money and corruption go together with politics and power should come as much as a surprise to you as discovering professional sporting teams cheat at every opportunity possible, constantly seeking to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals.

You already know money buys influence and votes. You're no doubt familiar with how the National Rifle Association (NRA), Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, and Big Oil and Gas promote and cajole legislatures to work to their advantage via big money donations to the candidates or party of their choosing. I mean, if you've seen just one episode of the hit television series House of Cards, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Essentially, money is the grease that keeps the big wheels turning, and after all, it was the US Supreme Court that determined money to equal free speech when it ruled in favor of Citizens United in 2010.

But something about this story feels different. Much different.

On Monday, Reuters reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is charged with leading the Department of Justice's investigation into the extent of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, has turned George Nader, a special adviser to the de-facto leader of the United Arab Emirates, Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, into a co-operative witness.

According to two people close to the investigation, Nader wired $2.5 million to Elliott Broidy, a key Trump campaign fundraiser, for the purpose of persuading the US government to take a hard line against Qatar, a state that has been a long-time US ally, on behalf of the UAE.

Correspondence between Nader and Broidy obtained by The New York Times shows how both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have worked feverishly to cultivate Trump into an asset for the Arab Gulf states, and in particular to move him towards taking a confrontational approach towards Iran and Qatar - and to fire US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
It'd be a coincidence only if there weren't two and half million traceable dollar bills to this happenstance

Well, the record shows Trump has behaved according to the directed wishes of both Saudi Arabia and the UAE since taking office - supporting the kingdom's blockade of Qatar, firing Tillerson, threatening to tear up the Iran nuclear deal, and bringing in John Bolton as National Security Adviser, a dangerous neoconservative ideologue who has for years urged the US to bomb Iran.

It'd be a coincidence only if there weren't two and half million traceable dollar bills to this happenstance.

So, while the media's attention is fixated on the investigation into the possibility Trump colluded with Russia to undermine the US democratic system, it appears the Oval Office is very much occupied by agents working on behalf of foreign powers, but in the Middle East.

The timeline of events reads as yet another damning indictment against the legitimacy of the Trump presidency.

According to the Reuters report, Broidy and Nader first met at Trump's presidential inauguration on January 20, 2017, noting that Broidy had signed onto the Trump campaign as a fundraiser in 2016. Shortly after their initial meeting, the pair began working together in an effort to shift Trump towards taking favourable positions on both Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Three months after their initial meet, Broidy invoiced Nader's Dubai-domiciled company for $2.5 million.

Six weeks later, on May 23, 2017, Ed Royce, a 13-term Republican Congressman, announced he was introducing a bill to sanction Qatar, accusing the US Gulf ally of sponsoring terrorism. "Hamas has received significant financial and military support from Qatar," reads the original draft of the bill.

Read also: UAE adviser 'sent Republicans millions' to push anti-Qatar agenda

With the sanctions bill in motion, Broidy and Nader used $600,000 from the $2.5 million to sway Republican lawmakers to support the Saudi and UAE push to wound their regional rival Qatar. "Broidy has personally given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republicans over the past decade or more," observes Reuters. But the amount of $600,000 is "more than in the previous 14 years combined".

On June 9, 2017, Trump declared his support for sanctions and the Saudi blockade, accusing Qatar of funding terrorism at a "high level" - despite his secretary of state, Tillerson, urging the Gulf states to end their actions against Qatar because it was causing "humanitarian consequences", thus explaining why Tillerson has been on the out since the middle of last year, and thus explaining why he was eventually fired last week.

Obviously, we will know more when the overall findings of Mueller's investigation come to light, but this appears, at least on the surface, to be a clear case of the US Commander-in-Chief being led not by those who have the interests of the US public in mind, but rather by those who have large sums of cash and their own respective national interests to advance.

In any other universe, we'd call this treason or conspiring against the United States, but in today's hyper-polarised, tribal political landscape, it'll likely register only as another tumble in what is a never-ending cascade of Trump scandals.

CJ Werleman is the author of 'Crucifying America', 'God Hates You, Hate Him Back' and 'Koran Curious', and is the host of Foreign Object.

Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.