Bob Mueller’s New Best Friend

George Nader seems to be another key to Trump’s various plots. Josh Marshall:

George Nader was returning to Dulles airport on January 17th, apparently from abroad, when he was met by FBI agents with search warrants and a subpoena. Nader was planning to travel on to Florida to Mar-a-Lago for a celebration of Trump’s first year in office. Presumably, he planned to meet Trump himself or other members of the Trump inner circle. The FBI swooped in, confiscated Nader’s electronics, began questioning him at length and appear to have presented him with evidence and knowledge that more or less immediately turned him into a cooperating witness. He’s been cooperating ever since and has recently made at least one appearance before Mueller’s grand jury.

This isn’t something that happens when you’re pursuing a vague lead or someone didn’t file the right form. This has all the hallmarks of a serious counter-espionage, counter-intelligence investigation. The FBI confiscated his electronic equipment and all its records. They apparently presented him with evidence against him serious enough to compel immediate cooperation. They also appear to have wanted to stop him from making that trip to Mar-a-Lago and conveying whatever goods or information he had with him, though this is admittedly an inference and less certain than the other points.

Nader was a participant and perhaps a convener of that Transition meeting in the Seychelles which brought together a representative of President Trump (Erik Prince) with representatives of Putin and the United Arab Emirates.

If you’d forgotten (as I had) the Transition meeting in the Seychelles, here’s the background, from nearly a year ago:

SHORTLY BEFORE Donald Trump’s inauguration, Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater and head of Frontier Services Group, traveled to the Seychelles, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, and met with a Russian official close to President Vladimir Putin. According to the Washington Post, the meeting between the Russian and Prince, who presented himself as an unofficial envoy of Trump, took place “around January 11” and was brokered by Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, to establish a backchannel between the president-elect and Putin.

The identity of the Russian individual was not disclosed, but on January 11, a Turkish-owned Bombardier Global 5000 charter plane flew Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, to the Seychelles, flight records obtained by The Intercept show. Dmitriev’s plane was an unscheduled charter flight and flew to the island with two other Russian individuals, both women. The RDIF is a $10 billion sovereign wealth fund created by the Russian government in 2011. …

… During the same period in January when Dmitriev and Prince were in the Seychelles, Alexander Mashkevich, a Kazakh businessman linked to a shady Trump investment vehicle known as Bayrock, also arrived to meet with Zayed, who was “holding court” at his mansion on the island, a source familiar with the meetings said. Abdulrahman Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi billionaire whose grandfather founded the first Saudi private bank and whose father allegedly helped Al Qaeda, was also present. The meetings came several weeks after Zayed flew to New York to meet with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, former chief strategist Steve Bannon, and Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser who is now a subject in the federal Russia probe.

Now we know that George Nader was at that meeting, representing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the effective ruler of the Emirates. The New York Times reported:

The meeting, convened by the crown prince, brought together a Russian investor close to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia with Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater and an informal adviser to Mr. Trump’s team during the presidential transition, according to three people familiar with the meeting.

More on George Nader, from Josh Marshall:

He was also in close and on-going contact with the Trump Transition and during the Presidency. He appears to have been an interlocutor with Jared Kushner in Kushner’s dealings with Gulf states, which connect up with Kushner family’s failed attempt to secure a loan from Qatar and subsequent Kushner green-lighting of the Saudi/UAE et al. blockade of Qatar. Finally, Mueller’s investigators are reportedly examining whether Nader helped facilitate illegal transfers of foreign funds to the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.

But what about this Erik Prince guy?

Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, never held a formal role in the Trump campaign, the transition team, or the administration, but has been a vocal supporter of Trump nonetheless. According to the Post, Prince donated $250,000 to the Trump campaign after the Republican National Convention and developed a close relationship with Bannon. The Intercept has reported that Prince later lobbied contacts inside the Trump administration to set up a private network of intelligence contractors for the C.I.A., an idea that U.S. officials and the White House appeared to reject.

When he was first asked about the Seychelles meeting, on CNN, Prince told anchor Erin Burnett that he had been there “on business” to meet with Emirati officials and that he only had a brief meeting with “some fund manager—I can’t even remember his name” over a beer. (“The meeting had nothing to do with President Trump,” a spokesman for Prince said at the time. “Why is the so-called under-resourced intelligence community messing around with surveillance of American citizens when they should be hunting terrorists?”)

Speaking of Betsy DeVos, this morning she made a weird appearance at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and refused to talk to any students. She then held a press conference at her hotel at which she claimed to have spoken to students, but then ended abruptly after only eight minutes.  I don’t think anyone asked her about her brother.

Back to the New York Times:

The meeting in the Seychelles also took place against the backdrop of a larger pattern of secretive contacts between the Trump team and both the Russians and the Emiratis. In the weeks after the 2016 presidential election, Crown Prince Mohammed aroused the suspicions of American national security officials when they learned that he had breached protocol by visiting Trump Tower in Manhattan without notifying the Obama administration of his visit to the United States.

Mr. Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and a senior transition adviser, met at Trump Tower with Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington at the time, and discussed setting up a back channel to communicate with Moscow during the transition — circumventing American diplomatic channels normally used during a presidential transition. Mr. Kushner met a few days later with a Russian banker close to Putin, Sergey N. Gorkov — whose bank was also under sanctions — in what Mr. Kushner has said was an attempt to establish a direct line of communication to Mr. Putin during the transition.

Speaking of Jared Kushner, ABC News is reporting that several White House staffers — although not Kushner — were terminated today because of their security clearance problems.

Drippity drippity drip.