NYT: Donald Trump Jr. met with Gulf emissary at Trump Tower ahead of 2016 election
Posted May 19, 2018 12:10 p.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Three months before the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump Jr. met with a small group of people at Trump Tower in New York, including an emissary for two Arab princes and an Israeli social media specialist, who offered assistance to the Trump campaign, The New York Times reported on Saturday, citing several people with knowledge of the encounters.
The Times identified the emissary as George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, and reported that he informed Trump Jr., President Donald Trump's son, "that the crown princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president."
The newspaper reported that the social media expert, Joel Zamel, talked about how his company could help a political campaign gain an advantage. According to the Times, the company had by then put together "a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump."
It is unclear, however, whether a proposal was ever executed, and details on who commissioned it remain in dispute, the Times reported.
Prominent Trump supporter Erik Prince, the former CEO of the controversial private security firm Blackwater, now called Academi, and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, organized the meeting, the Times reported.
Alan Futerfas, a lawyer representing Trump Jr., told CNN in a statement "Prior to the 2016 election, Donald Trump Jr. recalls a meeting with Eric Prince, George Nader, and another individual who may be Joel Zamel. They pitched Mr. Trump Jr. on a social media platform or marketing strategy. He was not interested and that was the end of it. "
CNN has previously reported that Nader was stopped and questioned by FBI agents at Washington Dulles International Airport in January and has since spoken to investigators with special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government.
A lawyer for Nader, Kathryn Ruemmler, told the Times he has "fully cooperated with the special counsel's investigation and will continue to do so." Ruemmler did not immediately return a request for comment from CNN.
CNN has also reported that Nader attended a December 2016 meeting in New York between Emirati officials and members of Trump's inner circle, and another in January 2017 in the Seychelles islands between the Emiratis and Prince. Nader was also in the Seychelles when Prince met with a Russian banker, sources familiar with the matter told CNN.
A senior official in Saudi Arabia told the Times that the country has never employed Nader or given him authorization to speak on behalf of the crown prince.
A lawyer representing Joel Zamel pushed back on the report in a statement to CNN, saying that Zamel "offered nothing to the Trump campaign, received nothing from the Trump campaign, delivered nothing to the Trump campaign and was not solicited by, or asked to do anything for, the Trump campaign." The lawyer, Marc Mukasey, said that "media reports about Mr. Zamel's engaging in 'social media manipulation' are misguided. Mr. Zamel's companies harvest publicly available information for lawful use."
The White House did not return the Times' request for comment, nor CNN's request for comment, and Prince declined to comment to The Times through a spokesman.
A request for comment from Prince sent to Frontier Services Group, which lists Prince as executive director and chairman, by CNN was not immediately returned.