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A Middle East specialist who attended secret meetings between Trump associates and the UAE during the transition is cooperating with Mueller, sources say



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NYT: Mueller's team investigating possible UAE efforts to buy political influence

George Nader, a low-profile diplomatic go-between who has forged close ties to the Emirates, was stopped and questioned by the FBI at Dulles International Airport in January as he returned from an overseas trip, these sources say. Since then, he has been talking to Mueller’s investigators and providing information to the grand jury.
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 Erik Prince, a Trump associate. Nader was also in the Seychelles when Prince met with a Russian banker, the sources said.
The special counsel’s questions about the Emiratis point to an investigation that has expanded beyond Russian meddling in the 2016 election to broader concerns about foreign influence during the presidential campaign and long after it concluded. The Washington Post reported last week[1] that at least four countries, including the United Arab Emirates, have discussed ways they could compromise Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law.
While there is no indication that Nader is suspected of wrongdoing, his knowledge of key meetings involving the Emiratis and others could be helpful to the special counsel in understanding the inner workings of the transition and possible efforts to influence key figures in the administration.
Nader learned for the first time when he returned to Dulles that the special counsel was interested in him and the information he had about key sessions, at least two of which he personally attended.
The FBI agents with search warrants imaged his electronic devices and then served him with a grand jury subpoena ordering him to appear January 19, according to a person familiar with Nader’s involvement. An agreement was reached that Nader appear for questioning with Mueller’s investigators.
The December 2016 New York meeting occurred without the prior knowledge[2] of the Obama administration. It was led by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. At least three members of the Trump team attended, including Kushner; Michael Flynn, then slated to become national security adviser; and Steve Bannon, strategist to the incoming President.
The existence of the meetings in New York and the Seychelles became public in report published by The Washington Pos[3]t in April 2017, but much about them remains mysterious.
Nader attended a meeting in the Seychelles between the Emiratis and Prince, people familiar with the session told CNN. Nader was also present at the bar when Prince met with Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive of the state-run Russian Direct Investment Fund, although it is unclear whether he was involved in the conversation, these people say.
After the election ended, Nader maintained contact with senior administration officials, including Bannon and Kushner, according to sources familiar with the situation.
The White House, Nader’s lawyer and the special counsel’s office declined to comment. The Embassy for the United Arab Emirates did not respond to requests for comment.

Nader’s ‘stunningly authentic contacts’

Nader, a 58-year-old Lebanese-American, has kept a low profile even among Middle East experts in the US.
“He is a man of mystery,” said Frederic Hof, director of the Atlantic Council’s Middle East center. “Until this recent flurry of interest in him, I don’t think I’ve even heard his name mentioned for 12 years.”
One Middle East expert was stunned to hear that Nader, who travels frequently, maintained an address in Washington. Another expressed surprise at finding out Nader was still alive because he had disappeared from public view.
Since the 1980s, Nader has made a habit of ingratiating himself with administrations in Washington by volunteering to open lines of communication with elusive Middle Eastern leaders. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Nader was the president and editor of a magazine called Middle East Insight. While many in his field assumed his role as a magazine editor helped him create inroads with prominent leaders abroad, they still had little insight into how he’d built such an unusual rolodex.
“He had stunningly authentic contacts,” said Aaron David Miller, the director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Nader had prominent ties in Lebanon, Syria, Israel and Iran and, for the most part, was able to move freely within those countries, according to people who have worked with him.
“He had tremendous contacts in the Middle East in places that normal people — at least back then, and to this day — don’t go,” said Miller, a former adviser to six secretaries of state who encountered Nader frequently over the years.
People who worked with him described him as low-key — a discreet name-dropper who often volunteered his efforts as a go-between and provided credible information.
Dennis Ross, a fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, first encountered Nader when he was working on Middle East issues in the waning days of the Reagan administration. But he came to work with him more closely under President George H.W. Bush on an effort to free Americans who were still being held hostage in Lebanon after the Iran-Contra affair, Ross said.
Nader acted as a middle man between the US and Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, a Shiite cleric in Lebanon whose work inspired the founders of Hezbollah. Nader relayed Fadlallah’s demands to Ross, who insisted the US wasn’t going to negotiate. But the two sides kept talking.
“He was involved in discussions that ultimately led to the release of those who were being held in Lebanon,” Ross said.
Not all of his endeavors yielded success.
During the Clinton administration, Nader was involved in another “shadow diplomatic effort,” this time to attempt to strike an Israeli-Syrian peace deal, Ross said. He worked alongside Ronald Lauder, a cosmetics heir who has been heavily involved in Jewish philanthropic causes, on the off-the-books effort. Nader was brought in, at least in part, because he spoke Arabic and had a relationship with Walid Muallem, at the time the Syrian ambassador to the US who went on to become Syria’s foreign minister.
But it was ultimately unsuccessful.
For his work over the years, Nader asked for nothing in return.
“He was presenting himself to all sides as someone who could be a kind of middleman,” Ross said. “I don’t know if it meant he got paid by others, but he certainly wasn’t paid by any of us.”

Nader’s presence at key meetings

It’s unclear how Nader first came into contact with members of Trump’s inner circle.
The New York meeting was unusual enough that it prompted a scramble inside the White House, where Obama administration officials saw intelligence reports on the meeting and sought to find out who the Emiratis were meeting.
Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, testified to Congress in September that Obama administration officials felt misled by the Emirates officials[4], who had not told the US government that the crown prince was coming to the United States even though it’s customary for foreign government dignitaries to provide advance notice about their travels here.
Axios reported in January[5] that Mueller had talked at least twice with Nader. Sources told CNN the discussions about Nader’s presence at the New York and Seychelles meetings have continued since then.
The New York session occurred in December. After that discussion, Emirati officials helped set up the Seychelles meeting between Dmitriev, the head of the Russian investment fund, and Prince, a prominent Trump donor and founder of the security firm Blackwater.
The meeting’s existence drew the interest of intelligence agencies from the US and the Middle East.
In private testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last year, Prince denied any wrongdoing and strongly denied that anyone on Trump’s team asked him to take the meeting. He said he was invited to the Seychelle[6]s by someone working for the crown prince and met with a group there for an hour. It was a member of the Emirati entourage, Prince said, who recommended he meet with Dmitriev to discuss business opportunities.
The meeting with Dmitriev, he said, lasted about a half hour after dinner over a beer.
A spokesman for Prince said his client has no comment beyond his testimony.


  1. ^ The Washington Post reported last week (
  2. ^ without the prior knowledge (
  3. ^ by The Washington Pos (
  4. ^ felt misled by the Emirates officials (
  5. ^ Axios reported in January (
  6. ^ invited to the Seychelle (

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Houston Recalls Legacy of George Bush, Its Lone Star Yankee and Senior Booster



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HOUSTON — Inside the airport that bears his name, George Herbert Walker Bush looks, at a distance, as if he’s wearing a cape.

An 8-foot-tall bronze statue at the Houston airport shows Mr. Bush, who , Barbara Bush[4], who died in April at the age of 92. After Mr. Bush’s death on Friday, Houston lost its two most famous residents in the span of seven months.

“George H.W. Bush served with valor and integrity as the 41st president of the United States,” Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, said in a statement. “But to Houstonians he was one of our most esteemed and relatable neighbors. He and his wife, Barbara Bush, were our sports teams’ biggest fans, and boosters for everything Houston.”

This was the man whose most memorable quote in years had to do with men’s hosiery. In 2012, as his fondness for wearing bright eye-catching socks was going strong, he explained that he simply “likes a good sock.” At his wife’s funeral at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Mr. Bush wore a pair of socks with a colorful stack-of-books design, a tribute to Mrs. Bush’s advocacy work for family literacy.

In Houston and its surrounding suburbs, Mr. Bush had not only an airport in his name but a park, a high school and a few more life-size statues. Above Buffalo Bayou, a bronze statue of Mr. Bush looks out into the distance with his hand in his pocket, gazing at, of all things, James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and Mr. Bush’s tennis partner at the Houston Country Club. The statues of the two close friends face each other in the downtown park, separated by about 100 yards, in Houston’s oddest and longest-running staring contest.

“All I can do now,” Mr. Bush told The New York Times in 2011 about the statue, “is hope that the pigeons will be kind and gentle.”

Charles C. Foster, a Houston immigration lawyer and a longtime friend of the Bush family, came up with the idea for the George H.W. Bush Monument, which was unveiled in 2004. Mr. Foster recalled the day he sat in Mr. Bush’s office at 10000 Memorial Drive and asked for his blessing for the project.

Mr. Bush in 1970, when he was a congressman.CreditAssociated Press

“He looked at me and he sort of looked up at the ceiling,” Mr. Foster said. “He pointed to the ceiling and said, ‘Shouldn’t you wait until I’m up there?’ And then he said, pointing downward, ‘Or perhaps down there?’”

In 1990, Mr. Bush helped turn the eyes of the world to Houston.

As president, he brought thousands of reporters and foreign dignitaries to Houston that summer for the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations, an annual gathering of the world’s economic powers. The summits had been held in a number of global cities — London, Tokyo, Paris, Venice — and Mr. Bush made the case that his adopted hometown belonged among such world-class company.

Houston was scrappier back then. The city was rebounding from an oil bust in the 1980s that crippled the economy, and it tried hard to present its best, and cleanest, face to the cameras and the visitors, picking up millions of pounds of trash, repaving roads and enlisting the aid of 12,000 volunteers.

“That was huge for Houston,” Mr. Foster said of the 1990 summit. “When the president had a chance, he could have picked some mountain retreat. But he picked his hometown. He was well aware of the chip on our shoulders that we didn’t feel like Houston got the recognition that it should.”

Now, with 2.3 million residents (compared with 1.6 million in 1990), Houston is the fourth-largest city in America, known as much for its diversity as its energy-capital status. George Bush High School, part of the Fort Bend school district, is 43 percent Hispanic, 38 percent black, 12 percent Asian and 4 percent white. More than 90 languages and dialects are spoken in the district.

Early Saturday morning in the upscale Tanglewood area, Houstonians paused at the gates at South Post Oak Lane and North West Oak Drive — the entrance to the gated community where Mr. Bush lived. Someone draped an American flag in the center of the gates, decorated for the holidays with Christmas wreaths.

Shirley Matthews, 66, a lifelong Houstonian who lives nearby, walked up and took a picture of the memorial for her mother. “He was just a good person,” she said. “He wasn’t perfect. But it’s family, and we love each other.”


  1. ^ died at his home here on Friday (
  2. ^ Read the obituary of George H.W. Bush. (
  3. ^ the funeral for his wife (
  4. ^ Barbara Bush (

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A Close Race, a Mysterious Ballot and Control of Alaska’s House at Stake



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With a crucial legislative seat in Alaska teetering toward a tie earlier this month, lawmakers in Juneau braced for the possibility of a coin toss deciding control of the state’s House of Representatives. Then a mysterious extra ballot emerged that threw the process into further disarray.

Amid several counts, the latest coming on Friday afternoon, a single ballot drew scrutiny across the state.

The state’s review board certified the race, between Kathryn Dodge, a Democrat, and Bart LeBon, a Republican, as a tie earlier this week, with exactly 2,661 votes going to each candidate. The extra ballot, for Ms. Dodge, could have settled the race for the Fairbanks-area district seat.

Later on Friday, the mystery appeared to have been solved — but the standoff over who won the election continued.

Samantha Miller, a spokeswoman for the state elections office, said that workers at Fairbanks’s No. 6 precinct told officials that a woman had come into the polling place to request a special needs ballot on behalf of her husband, who was outside in a vehicle.

The woman came back into the precinct. Her husband had made a mistake, she told the precinct worker, and needed a new ballot. She left behind the one he had already marked, thus making it a spoiled ballot.

The precinct chair told the worker who took the spoiled ballot to put it into a secrecy sleeve, “and that they would deal with it later in the day,” Ms. Miller said.

But instead, the spoiled ballot was put into a compartment with other questioned ballots.

Typically, Ms. Miller said, spoiled ballots are destroyed once they are accounted for. So, because the mystery ballot was found to be spoiled, it will not be counted, she said.

Still, that left the question of what happens if the recount that began on Friday afternoon ends in a tie — again.

Ms. Miller said that both candidates had five days to file a legal challenge to the results. And if the court decided the recount went as it should have, and the race was still a tie?

The prevailing candidate would be determined “by lot,” Ms. Miller said. “It could be a coin toss or some other way of deciding, as long as it’s random.”

It would not be the first time an Alaska race was determined by coin toss.

In 2006, State Representative Bryce Edgmon[1], a Democrat from Dillingham, beat the incumbent, Carl Moses. Mr. Moses’s name was drawn, so he got to make the call: Heads.

The state’s elections director at the time flipped an Alaska Mint medallion — the side with a walrus being heads and the side with the state seal being tails. It landed state seal side up.

Ms. Miller would not speculate about when the recount would be complete, but said both candidates were present, along with observers and officials.

Mr. LeBon did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Sara Harriger, a spokeswoman for Ms. Dodge, said in a statement that during Friday’s recount, one additional vote was found for Ms. Dodge and a challenged ballot was allowed for her opponent, Mr. LeBon, which meant that the tally stood at 2,662 apiece. Still tied.

Ms. Dodge said in a statement that she believed every legally cast ballot should be counted. “I just want everyone watching this process to take away a sense of confidence in our democratic system and a commitment to cast their votes in future races,” she said, “and knowing that their votes will matter.”

Ms. Dodge had said earlier on Friday that legal action “unfortunately” seemed probable.

“It’s certainly not what any of us expect when we set out to campaign, to find ourselves in a squeaker of this nature,” she said. “I hope we don’t have a coin toss. I don’t know quite what to say, but it doesn’t feel like it’s an appropriate way to settle an election.”

In Alaska, the repercussions of this race will be felt into the next legislative session, though party control of the House in Juneau will be far from clear-cut.

Political coalitions in Juneau do not always come down to party-line votes like in other state houses. Even if Ms. Dodge wins the race, Democrats would still not have an outright majority, and so members of the House will still be tasked with negotiating a coalition majority.


  1. ^ Bryce Edgmon (

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3 Killed After Pickup Truck Fleeing Border Patrol Hits Tire Spikes and Crashes



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Three people in a packed pickup truck were killed on Thursday afternoon after the driver ran over tire spikes and crashed on a Southern California highway while trying to flee Border Patrol officers, the authorities said.

The officers turned on their vehicle’s emergency lights and began chasing the pickup truck on Interstate 8, near Boulevard, Calif., at around 4:20 p.m., according to the United States Customs and Border Protection. The authorities said they believed that the pickup truck had been illegally driven over the southern border and had crashed through an “iron bar vehicle barrier.” They said they identified it by matching a piece that was missing from the truck to one agents had spotted on the ground near the border, though they did not elaborate.

The pickup truck reached speeds of over 100 miles per hour, weaving between cars and bypassing others on the side of the highway, before it drove over spikes that the Border Patrol had placed on the road, the California Highway Patrol said. About a mile later, the truck spun out of control and flipped over, ejecting the nine people who were riding in the truck’s bed, the authorities said.

A woman inside the truck, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was killed, as were two people riding in the bed, the police said. Seven people who had “multiple serious injuries” were taken to the hospital, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection said.

The driver, a United States citizen whose name was not released, was the only person wearing a seatbelt, the agency said. The California Highway Patrol took the man into custody, but it was not clear whether he had been charged. The identities of the passengers in the truck have not been released either.

“The investigation into the smuggling incident is ongoing,” the spokesman said in an email, “and the Border Patrol is fully cooperating with the CHP in their investigation of the collision.”

About an hour after the crash, the Border Patrol stopped another vehicle that officers believed had crossed over the border with the pickup truck, the agency said. The driver of that car was also arrested.

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