UAE Adviser Illegally Funneled Foreign Cash Into Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Campaign

George Nader also cultivated key Trump advisers on behalf of his Gulf clients, prosecutors say.

Photo illustration of George Nader
George Nader. Photo illustration: The Intercept/Getty Images

George Nader, an American adviser to the government of the United Arab Emirates, convicted sex offender, and frequent visitor to the White House during President Donald Trump’s first year in office, has pleaded guilty for his role in helping the UAE pump millions of dollars in illegal campaign contributions into the U.S. political system during the 2016 presidential election, according to documents submitted in federal court last month.

Federal prosecutors disclosed in a December sentencing memo that Nader had agreed months earlier to plead guilty to a single count of felony conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government by funneling millions in donations to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and concealing the funds’ foreign origin. Nader’s plea has not been previously reported.

A lawyer for Nader did not respond to a request for comment.

Nader conspired to hide the funds “out of a desire to lobby on behalf and advance the interests of his client, the government of the United Arab Emirates,” according to the prosecutors’ sentencing memo. Nader received the money for the illegal donations from the UAE government, the memo said. The filing marks the first time that the U.S. government has explicitly accused the UAE, a close ally, of illegally seeking to buy access to candidates during a presidential election.

Nader’s guilty plea opens a new window into the efforts of the United Arab Emirates and its de facto ruler, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, known as MBZ, to influence the outcome of the 2016 election and shape subsequent U.S. policy in the Gulf. The government’s memo notes that Nader and Los Angeles businessperson Ahmad “Andy” Khawaja also sought to cultivate “key figures” in the Trump campaign and that Khawaja donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee. It is unclear where that money came from.

Prosecutors allege that, in total, Nader transferred nearly $5 million from his UAE-based business to Khawaja, the CEO of a Los Angeles-based payment processing company. The sentencing memo details Nader and Khawaja’s efforts to disguise the money as a mundane business contract between the two. Of that amount, more than $3.5 million came from the government of the UAE and was given to Democratic political committees working to elect Clinton, according to the U.S. government, which has accused Nader, Khawaja, and six others of working together to conceal the origin of those funds. Prosecutors have not publicly accounted for what happened to the remaining $1.4 million they say Nader transferred to Khawaja.

With Nader’s guilty plea, five of the eight men charged in the alleged conspiracy have pleaded guilty; two other defendants are scheduled to stand trial this year. Khawaja fled the U.S. after the indictment. The Associated Press reported in 2020 that he was being held in Lithuania, citing police officials there and a Lithuanian lawyer representing him.

Prosecutors are seeking a five-year sentence for Nader, asking that it not begin until after he completes the 10-year sentence he is currently serving for possessing child pornography and bringing a minor to the U.S. “for the purpose of engaging in criminal sexual activity.”

Prosecutors have alleged that Nader took his instructions from the UAE crown prince and that he regularly updated MBZ on his progress as he sought to get close to Clinton. At one point, Khawaja complained that Nader and the UAE had not yet sent money to cover the costs of a Clinton fundraiser he was organizing. Nader texted that he would send note “as per HH instruction,” using an abbreviation of “his highness,” an apparent reference to MBZ.

A few days later, Nader was preparing to meet with both Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton and asked an Emirati official, almost certainly MBZ, if they could meet before he departed. “[T]raveling on Sat morning to catch up with our Big Sister and her husband: I am seeing him on Sunday and her in [sic] Tuesday Sir! Would love to see you tomorrow at your convenience…for your guidance, instruction and blessing!”

Even as Nader poured donations into the effort to elect Clinton, he worked his way into the Trump campaign on behalf of his Gulf clients.

But even as Nader poured donations into the effort to elect Clinton, he worked his way into the Trump campaign on behalf of his Gulf clients. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election described Nader as a “senior advisor” to MBZ and said that he’d made “contacts” with both campaigns. Nader would later tell the FBI that he met with Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. several times in 2016, and the New York Times reported that Nader told Trump Jr. that both MBZ and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince were eager to help his father get elected. Nader advised the Gulf monarchs to “be on good terms” with both Clinton and Trump in the runup to the 2016 vote, he told the FBI.

After Trump won the presidency but before he was inaugurated, Nader unsuccessfully sought to arrange a meeting between Trump and MBZ, according to FBI interview notes. Instead, UAE officials arranged for MBZ to speak with top Trump campaign officials including Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, and retired Lieut. Gen. Michael Flynn in New York. A few weeks later, through Nader, the Emirati leader arranged for a top Trump donor, Erik Prince, to meet with Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a state-sanctioned investment fund, at a resort in the Seychelles.

After Trump’s inauguration, Nader became a frequent visitor to the White House, according to the Times. Nader’s involvement with the Trump campaign and his role in the Seychelles meeting put him in the sights of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Federal agents arrested Nader in June 2019 at John F. Kennedy International Airport after he got off a flight from the UAE and charged him with possessing a dozen images or videos of child pornography. Those charges were ultimately dismissed, but Nader was indicted on a separate child pornography possession charge and accused of flying a 14-year-old boy to the U.S. for sexual purposes. Nader pleaded guilty to both felony counts, which stemmed from activity that took place in 2012 and 2000, respectively, according to court documents, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison and lifetime supervision as a sex offender. Nader also spent a year in prison in the Czech Republic in 2003 for having sex with the same minor he flew to the U.S.

Nader isn’t the only American recently charged with helping the UAE influence U.S. policy. Last year, the Justice Department indicted Thomas Barrack, a wealthy businessperson and close friend and adviser of Trump, for secretly working as an agent of the UAE in an effort to help advance the country’s foreign policy aims. In a press release at the time of the indictment’s unsealing, the Justice Department described Barrack and two others as working to “provide intelligence” to the UAE government about the Trump campaign and later the administration. Barrack was also charged with obstruction of justice and lying to investigators. Also indicted in the scheme was a UAE national and associate of Barrack, Rashid Al-Malik, whose role was first reported by The Intercept in 2019.

In Barrack’s indictment, MBZ and senior UAE officials are described, though not by name, as directing and otherwise overseeing Barrack’s efforts to work with Trump to advance the UAE’s policy goals. Barrack, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, will face trial later this year.

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