Accused Sex Trafficker Steered $100K Payday to Bannon

By (Betsy Woodruff)
Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast/Getty

An accused pedophile helped Steve Bannon secure a $100,000 speaking gig from a prestigious Washington think tank, according to emails reviewed by The Daily Beast. The emails—between Republican fundraiser and investor Elliott Broidy and Lebanese-American political operative George Nader—shed light on the relationship between Trump’s ex-adviser and a man now in jail awaiting trial on child sex trafficking charges.

The emails point to a closer relationship between Bannon and Nader than previously known. It’s been widely reported that Nader met with Bannon in the White House during his time as a Trump adviser there. But these emails show they stayed in contact after Bannon left government, and that Nader helped the ex-Breitbart chief secure an appearance with a six-figure payday. A Bannon spokesperson, meanwhile, said Nader was “irrelevant” to Bannon’s speech.

Nader’s work drew the attention of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who questioned him extensively as part of his probe into foreign meddling in the 2016 presidential race. But Mueller wasn’t the only federal prosecutor interested in Nader. On June 3 of this year, he was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and charged with possessing child pornography. And just last month, the feds rolled out additional charges for child sex trafficking. Nader is in jail awaiting trial, and has pleaded not guilty.

Broidy, meanwhile, also appears to have drawn attention from the feds: The Daily Beast confirmed in April that one of his former associates has spoken with FBI agents about his business dealings.

The emails between Nader and Broidy, sent in September and October 2017, involve arrangements for a conference on Qatar hosted by the Hudson Institute. Broidy, then seeking business from the government of the United Arab Emirates, was running a quiet public relations campaign designed to undermine the Qatari government’s influence in Washington and with American Jewish leaders. He was particularly incensed that Nick Muzin, a former staffer to Sen. Ted Cruz with deep ties to Jewish leaders, had signed on to lobby for the government of Qatar. They’d run in the same tight-knit circle of Jewish Republicans and Broidy saw Muzin as a traitor. The country’s connections to Iran—with which it shares a huge gas field—have long angered many in the pro-Israel community. And its ownership of Al Jazeera also fuels opposition from many supporters of Israel.

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“I want to Puke,” he wrote in an email to his wife on Sept. 6. “What a moron.”

“Is this guy a self-hating Jew or an idiot?” she replied. “What can you do?”

Just a few months earlier, the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates started a blockade of Qatar. It was a bid to isolate the peninsular nation, which those governments blamed for funding terrorism. The Qataris kicked off a well-funded lobbying effort to tell their side of the story in Washington and stay in the Trump administration’s good graces. Muzin’s outreach to Jewish leaders—which Broidy sought to countervail—was part of the Qataris’ effort to shore up support.

As part of Broidy’s project, he helped arrange a conference to be held at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank known for its foreign policy work. The conference, set for October of 2017, would make the case against Qatar.

In September, Broidy communicated with Nader—whom he had known since Trump’s inauguration—about those plans. And on Sept. 22, Nader emailed Broidy about getting Bannon involved [all punctuation sic].

“Hope all is going well with you and the Conference,” Nader wrote. “Send me please an update[.] Steve is interested in participating.”

Nader then shared Bannon’s email with Broidy.

“Send him pls a letter to brief him…on the conference, what you like him to do and when,” Nader continued. “You should get him key time and all by himself with proper guy to introduce him. Let me know what you have in mind!”

Two days later, Broidy sent Nader a curious email. It opened with the words “Dear Steve,” and then described the plans for the conference. “I would love to have you as one of the keynote speakers,” Broidy wrote in the email sent to Nader but addressed to Bannon. The email included a draft of the conference’s agenda. It appears Broidy wanted Nader to proof-read the invitation before it went to Bannon, who had left the White House in August 2017.

On Sept. 29, event organizers circulated a draft of a Save-the-Date invitation for the conference. Bannon’s name wasn’t on it.

“You need to add please Steve Bannon,” Nader wrote in an email to Broidy. “He is as important if not more to that invitation and kindly send me too a draft of the full program as is for now[.]”

Two weeks later, Bannon was in.

“Still working on many details,” Broidy wrote to Nader on Oct. 17. “Will get schedule to you when ready. Steve is on board, FYI $100k honorarium.”

Five days later, Broidy was still keeping Nader looped in on Bannon’s participation. He forwarded Nader an email he sent directly to Bannon that day. “I am very excited about your appearance at the conference tomorrow,” he wrote in the email to Bannon that he forwarded to Nader. “George asked me to resend some talking points. See you then.”

A person close to Bannon said that the two men got to know each other better after Bannon left the White House, and that Nader was one of many people who approached Bannon on behalf of event organizers about making speeches.

But a Bannon spokesperson discounted Nader’s role in Bannon’s speech.

“This is just one of many speaking requests Mr. Bannon receives,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Hudson Institute is a highly respected think tank, and because of that, he accepted an invitation with others such as Sen. Cotton and Gen. Petraeus. George Nader was irrelevant; neither he nor anyone has influenced Mr. Bannon’s longtime position on the condemnation of Qatar as an urgent threat to Israel: a state sponsor of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and other Islamic terror organizations.”

The conference went forward, largely as planned, and a source familiar with it confirmed that Bannon received the $100,000 payment. It featured a host of luminaries, including Gen. David Petraeus; Zalmay Khalilzad, who later became the State Department’s Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation; Democratic and Republican members of the House of Representatives; and Republican Sen. Tom Cotton. Bannon, in his speech, was characteristically bombastic and praised the blockade.

“I think the single most important thing that’s happening in the world is the situation in Qatar,” he said. “What’s happening in Qatar is every bit as important as what’s happening in North Korea.”

A lawyer for Nader declined to comment for this story. Spokespersons for Broidy and Bannon declined to comment as well.

The Hudson Institute stands by its work.

“Hudson has held countless panels and produced reports on the Middle East, including Qatar and the pernicious impact of the Muslim Brotherhood specifically,” said a statement the Institute shared with The Daily Beast. “We believe our criticisms and analysis of Qatar, Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood are still valid.”

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A source close to Hudson said Bannon’s honorarium was on par with what other main speakers received.

In an ironic twist, Bannon has since gotten to know Muzin—Broidy’s old nemesis—and discussed going into business with him. The Daily Beast reported earlier this year that Muzin pitched an executive at Juul, the e-cigarette company, on his lobbying services and said Bannon would be able to help out with his influence efforts. Juul didn’t take them up on the offer.

For Broidy and Nader, the weeks before the Hudson conference were a comparatively simple time. Two months after the event, hackers stole troves of emails Broidy had sent and received. The emails were fodder for a host of news stories about his business dealings and relationships with foreign government officials, including officials looking to influence Trumpworld. Many of Nader’s communications with Broidy have also become public since the hack. And numerous reports have revealed Nader’s work as a gatekeeper between Gulf dignitaries and denizens of Trumpworld. The emails The Daily Beast obtained indicate that, on at least one occasion, he also helped connect a Republican financier to Bannon.

Broidy has alleged in court that the Qatari government sponsored the hacks. The Qataris say the allegations are baseless, and the litigation is underway.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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