Mueller witness bragged about access to Clintons secured with illegal campaign cash, says Justice Department
An emissary for two wealthy Arab princes boasted to unnamed officials of a Middle Eastern government about his direct access to Hillary and Bill Clinton while funneling more than $3.5 million in illegal campaign contributions to the former secretary of state’s 2016 presidential campaign and Democratic fundraising committees, according to a federal indictment announced by the Justice Department this week.
“Wonderful meeting with Big Lady. … Can’t wait to tell you all about it,” George Nader allegedly wrote to an official of one of the foreign governments he advises in the Middle East after attending a political fundraiser with Hillary Clinton on April 16, 2016. Nader, a lobbyist, convicted sex offender and key cooperating witness in the Robert Mueller investigation, was brought to the Clinton fundraiser as the guest of Ahmad Khawaja, the founder and CEO of Allied Wallet, a Los Angeles payment-processing company.
Nader would soon be directing millions to Khawaja’s accounts in order to gain entry to similar events without disclosing his involvement or the source of the funds, according to the indictment’s charges.
Even while they illegally funneled cash to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Nader talked about the need to also cultivate then-candidate Donald Trump, reporting to the unnamed foreign official that he and his co-conspirators were developing a “constructive relationship with both camps,” according to the indictment. After the election, the indictment alleges, Allied Wallet illegally contributed $1 million to the Trump inauguration for VIP tickets, with Khawaja taking Nader and Rudy Dekermenjian, an attorney for Allied Wallet also charged in the indictment, as his guests.
The detailed 64-page indictment comes amid an intense controversy over foreign influence in U.S. elections — a central theme in the debate over the impeachment inquiry into the president. While the charges allege that Nader provided large sums of cash that were unlawfully reported as coming from Khawaja, his wife and other so-called straw donors, prosecutors did not specifically allege that the funds came from overseas. But they show how Nader regularly reported via WhatsApp messages to one of his foreign clients on his political fundraising efforts amid tantalizing coded references.
Asked whether they intend to return the allegedly unlawful contributions, representatives of the Clinton campaign, the DNC and Priorities USA — one of the Democratic fundraising committees involved — did not respond to a request for comment.
Nader is in federal custody after his arrest earlier this year on other charges; his lawyer did not respond to a request for comment. Khawaja’s whereabouts are unknown.
Nader’s attendance at donor events with Hillary Clinton, her husband and people in her orbit allegedly continued through the remainder of the campaign season. The approach to Hillary Clinton was facilitated by Khawaja’s illegal contributions and reported regularly via WhatsApp by Nader to his contacts in the unnamed Middle Eastern country, which the indictment refers to as “Foreign Country A.”
At one point in mid-July, Nader sent a government official of Foreign Country A a photo of himself with Bill Clinton taken in Khawaja’s house.
After Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the Nov. 8 election, Nader and Khawaja’s network of straw donors allegedly shifted its focus, illegally contributing $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee, according to the indictment. Khawaja obtained tickets to Trump’s inauguration in return for the contribution, and brought Nader and another alleged co-conspirator as his guests.
The 53-count indictment, which charges Nader, Khawaja and six others with conspiring to violate federal election laws, does not identify the foreign officials Nader was reporting to or their nationality, noting only that Nader is “a self-described advisor to certain foreign governments in the Middle East, including Foreign Country A.”
Nader is described by the Mueller report as a “senior advisor” to Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates. Nader has also reportedly held himself out as an intermediary for Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, who shares a close relationship with bin Zayed.
The detailed allegations, describing an effort to get close to Clinton, apparently with the full knowledge of one of his foreign sponsors, complicate Nader’s role in the 2016 campaign and its aftermath. Mueller’s report and numerous news accounts had previously shown Nader to be deeply entrenched in Trump’s world. Among other things, Nader arranged and attended a secret meeting on the Seychelles islands between Kirill Dimitriev, a Russian investor closely linked to the Kremlin, and Erik Prince, a private security magnate and a trusted associate of the incoming administration, shortly before Trump’s inauguration.
The Mueller report contained hints there was more to the story, noting that “Nader developed contacts with both U.S. presidential campaigns during the 2016 election, and kept Dimitriev abreast of his efforts to do so.”
The dual nature of Nader’s work was not a secret from his foreign clients, however. He allegedly texted a Foreign Country A official on July 27, 2016, that he was “catching up with key figures in both camps and have been developing a steady, consistent and constructive relationship with both camps!”
It’s not clear the campaigns would have seen it that way if they knew the full breadth of Nader’s activities. For instance, at a meeting at Trump Tower on Aug. 3, 2016, the New York Times reported, Nader “told Donald Trump Jr. that the princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president.”
At that same time, according to the indictment, Nader was using a network of straw donors led by Khawaja to deliver millions to Clinton’s campaign and the fundraising committees bent on defeating Trump, and apparently reporting his progress at gaining Clinton’s confidence in glowing terms to a government led by one of those very princes. On Aug. 23, 2016, Nader allegedly wrote to his Foreign Country A government contact after an event with Clinton: “I just had dinner with my Big Sister and had a very very productive discussion with her.”
While Nader played this apparent double game with the major-party campaigns during the election, his alleged co-conspirators led by Khawaja did not. Only after Clinton’s electoral defeat did Khawaja and his network of donors allegedly start giving to Trump.
The indictment portrays Nader as occasionally deceitful and well aware that his conduct was risky and illegal. He shied away from attending the Democratic National Convention, in part on the advice of a Foreign Country A official, fearing he would be “too exposed” at the “big event.”
He typically wrote in what appeared to be a lightly disguised code, referring to the money he arranged for Khawaja as “goodies” or “baklava,” and the unnamed source of those funds as “the bakery.” By the same token, he referred to Clinton as the “Big Lady,” “Big Sister H” or “our sister.”
The apparent foreign principal he serves was referred to as simply “HH.” Nader allegedly strung along his alleged co-conspirator Khawaja for weeks, demanding false invoices to cover the amounts he would pay as reimbursement for illegal criminal contributions and continually claiming his reimbursements were in process or coming tomorrow.
Despite initial doubts, contemporaneous news accounts appear to confirm Clinton’s presence at many of the events Nader also attended, according to the indictment’s detailed chronology. For instance, the date of the first Clinton fundraiser he allegedly attended, April 16, coincides with the second leg of a two-stop fundraising extravaganza for the Hillary Victory Fund that was hosted by George and Amal Clooney in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Khawaja hosted a fundraiser featuring Bill Clinton on June 26, 2016, at his home in Los Angeles. Nader messaged a series of reports to Foreign Country A as he traveled to and attended the event.
Two days before the fundraiser, on Friday, June 24, Nader wrote to an official of Foreign Country A to arrange a meeting in person. Nader said he was “traveling on Sat morning to catch up with our Big Sister and her husband,” referring to the Clintons. “I am seeing him on Sunday and her in Tuesday Sir! Would love to see you tomorrow at your convenience ... for your guidance, instruction and blessing!”
On Monday, June 27, another message went out to an official of Foreign Country A: “Meeting with [Bill Clinton] was superb!”
Two days after that, on June 29, Nader messaged another update to Foreign Country A: “Meeting with Big Lady went extremely well.”
Contemporaneous news accounts place both Clintons in Los Angeles on the dates in question. Bill Clinton reportedly attended a reception at the home of a Warner Bros. executive in Sherman Oaks on Sunday, June 26, and Hillary Clinton attended a fundraiser at the home of Napster and Facebook entrepreneur Sean Parker the following Tuesday, June 28.
Nader also boasted to Khawaja about how their work was being received by high-ranking officials of Foreign Country A. “I am leaving early morning back to join HH[.] Have already told him about the Wonderful Event with Our Sister and he was thrilled,” Nader allegedly wrote to Khawaja after a Las Vegas fundraiser in October.
While the indictment does not allege that the contributions Nader arranged were sourced overseas, some of his messages contain clues that may have been the case. Nader and Khawaja referred to the money as “baklava” (sometimes spelled “baklawa”), and its source was an outside third party called “the bakery.”
On Aug. 2, Nader allegedly wrote to Khawaja promising to “press the bakery” for a new infusion: “As a show of appreciation, respect and total confidence in You body, and for having set up the private event with Only you, wife, Juju and me Only, I will press the bakery to prepare me another tray of Baklawa to arrive in time for that event! [...] I trust my Friend that I can arrange a bit more Baklawa.”
On Aug. 4, Nader allegedly wrote to Khawaja again, stating he had met with his foreign principal HH, and suggesting Nader would have access to “the bakery” once he returned to a foreign city: “And as soon as we get back to [a foreign city] prepare something with bakery for the upcoming event. … With pleasure and stressed important and unique role you are playing.” The name of the foreign city is redacted in the indictment the same way it appears here.
Khawaja at one point allegedly recorded a portion of his phone call with a Clinton campaign official and sent it to Nader, who then forwarded the audio file to a foreign government official.
After Trump took office, Nader reportedly used a top fundraiser for the Trump campaign, Elliott Broidy, to gain significant influence for the UAE in the White House, according to leaked emails. One of Broidy and Nader’s top agenda items was removing Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, a goal that they appeared to accomplish in March 2018.
The indictment does not name Bill or Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or any members of their campaigns, and it does not accuse any of them of wrongdoing. The indictment also does not directly allege that any of the illegal contributions were funded by foreign money. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are referred to as Candidate 1 and Candidate 2, respectively, in the indictment; Bill Clinton is referred to as Individual 1.
It is not known whether the case was a referral or transfer from the special counsel’s office.
DOJ announced the indictment on Tuesday afternoon, and provided copies of the indictment filed in the D.C. District Court to reporters, along with a request not to publish it until the court had made a copy publicly available. As of Thursday morning, the case, 19-cr-374, had not been made public on the court’s electronic filing system. Peter Carr, a DOJ spokesperson, said Wednesday that he didn’t have an explanation for the delay.
In 2018, Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer appointed Khawaja to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent, bipartisan federal body.
Earlier this year, Allied Wallet, Khawaja and two other officers settled a case brought by the FTC alleging the company knowingly processed fraudulent transactions that scammed consumers out of more than $110 million. The settlement required Khawaja to surrender his home in Los Angeles, where allegedly several donor events were held and Nader took his photo with Bill Clinton.
Nader has a long and checkered history with law enforcement going back decades related to child pornography and sexual abuse of minors. Nader was arrested in June of this year upon his arrival at JFK airport and indicted for sex trafficking involving transporting a minor.
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