It’s against the law for foreigners—individuals or governments—to be involved in U.S. elections. But Mark Mazzetti, Ronen Bergman, and David D. Kirkpatrick at The New York Times have ferreted out evidence that an emissary for the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates met in Trump Tower in August 2016 with Don Trump Jr. along with an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation and a well-known—some would say notorious—private security contractor. The men were there, the reporters say they have learned, to discuss assisting Donald Trump in gaining the presidency.
It’s unknown whether any plan that emerged from the meeting was implemented. But soon after the election, the emissary paid the social media specialist a large sum, what one associate said was $2 million:
The meeting was convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team, and it forged relationships between the men and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months — past the election and well into President Trump’s first year in office, according to several people with knowledge of their encounters.
Erik Prince, the private security contractor and the former head of Blackwater, arranged the meeting, which took place on Aug. 3, 2016. The emissary, George Nader, told Donald Trump Jr. that the crown princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president. The social media specialist, Joel Zamel, extolled his company’s ability to give an edge to a political campaign; by that time, the firm had already drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump.
Donald Trump Jr.’s lawyer told the reporters the meeting came to nothing because his client wasn’t interested. A lawyer for Nader said he is fully cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and a senior Saudi official said the government there had never hired Nader nor authorized him to speak for the crown prince. A lawyer for Zamel said his client had had “no involvement whatsoever in the U.S. election campaign.”
Motivation for the Saudis being in such a plan, if they were, might well have been the kingdom’s ongoing clash with Iran. The Saudis were unhappy with President Barack Obama’s actions in the Middle East, including the negotiation of a 2015 multilateral agreement with Iran to remove economic sanctions in exchange for Tehran’s curtailing its nuclear development program.
The Times reporters note that after Trump took the oath of office, “both Mr. Zamel and Mr. Nader visited the White House, meeting with Mr. [Jared] Kushner and Mr. [Steve] Bannon.” This was at a time when Nader was advocating a $300 million plan with U.S., UAE, and Saudi officials to sabotage Iran economically. A senior Saudi official brushed off the matter, telling the reporters that Nader often presented proposals that never came to anything.
At the same time, Nader was discussing plans with Prince to get “the Saudis to pay $2 billion to set up a private army to combat Iranian proxy forces in Yemen.” Last year, it was learned that Prince had sought to privatize the war in Afghanistan, replacing U.S. and NATO troops with mercenaries.
Since being feted in Saudi Arabia like royalty a year ago this weekend, Pr*sident Trump has built ever closer ties to both the Saudi princes and the Emirati.
One of the deals under discussion between Washington and Riyadh is the construction of nuclear power reactors in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis want to build 16 such reactors and associated infrastructure at a cost of $80 billion. The kingdom is in discussion with 10 nations to do so. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry met with Saudi officials in London in March to discuss the matter, including U.S. restrictions designed to keep nations from diverting fissile material from power reactors to nuclear bomb-making.
Normally, those restrictions include a prohibition on nuclear enrichment, the process that concentrates uranium so it can be used for fueling power reactors. But in a more concentrated form, this fuel can also provide the punch in a nuclear weapon. To secure a hunk of that $80 billion, the Trump regime might be willing to forego the enrichment ban. The Saudis have made clear that they will build nuclear weapons if Iran does. Although the other nations involved in the Iran nuclear agreement are sticking with it, critics of Trump’s withdrawal from it earlier this month say that this move actually could make the possibility of an Iranian bomb greater.