Like any good drama, the Trump omni-scandal, a story of corruption and greed that crosses years and continents, has a collection of colorful supporting players. It can be hard to keep up with them all — you surely know Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels, but only true aficionados are aware of the details about Felix Sater or Oleg Deripaska or other minor figures.
But today, we turn our attention to one Elliott Broidy, who may well be moving into the first tier of Trump scandal players. His is a tale of government influence, foreign machinations, piles of money, and even a Playboy model mistress.
A new article from the Associated Press lays out a remarkable campaign that Broidy and his partner George Nader waged in 2017 in order to obtain huge consulting contracts from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in exchange for which they would use Broidy’s connections to the new president to help the Saudis and the UAE in their conflict with Qatar, a U.S. ally that houses a critical American military base.
And as the Daily Beast reports, after years of trying with almost no success to obtain federal military contracts, in 2017, Broidy’s company, Circinus LLC, received millions of dollars in defense work. The Trump presidency has been very good to Broidy, and he may have also been very good to President Trump himself.
But let’s back up. The first time most of us heard Elliott Broidy’s name was when Michael Cohen’s home and office were raided by federal prosecutors. In the ensuing legal proceedings, Cohen told the court that he had three legal clients: Trump, Sean Hannity and Broidy, a major Republican donor who had given hundreds of thousands of dollars to GOP candidates and who had held finance positions in the party. Cohen represented Broidy in an arrangement with a former Playboy model named Shera Bechard, who was paid $1.6 million to keep quiet about an affair she supposedly had with Broidy, which resulted in a pregnancy that she aborted.
From the start, many parts of this story didn’t quite add up. Broidy is a very rich man, but not necessarily someone who has occasion to hang out with Playboy models, unlike some people you might be familiar with. And he was not a public figure, which makes the $1.6 million payoff seem wildly excessive. To put it bluntly, $1.6 million is “Keep this out of the papers because it’ll be a huge story” money, not “Don’t tell my wife” money. And why would Broidy, who has access to the most high-priced and discreet legal talent in the country, retain someone like Cohen to take care of this delicate matter for him?
All of which leads to the theory that Broidy was acting as a cut-out for the person who really had the affair with Bechard: Trump. That theory is, at the moment, unproven but compelling.
There’s one more piece to this puzzle. We all know about Trump’s weird relationship with his daughter Ivanka Trump, how he often comments on her body and says things like “If she weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” Both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, the Playboy model who says she had an affair with Trump, said that Trump compared them to his daughter, which is a rather odd thing to say to a woman you’re having sex with. Whatever the true nature of Trump’s feelings, it’s clear that he’s attracted to women who remind him of Ivanka Trump. I bring this up because Shera Bechard is a dead ringer for Ivanka Trump. An absolute dead ringer.
But if the theory about Trump being the person who really had the affair with Bechard is true, why would Broidy step in and put up $1.6 million of his own money to do Trump a solid in this way? The explanation is that he may have stood to gain much, much more. And he had been involved in this kind of arrangement before. In 2009, Broidy pleaded guilty to a felony charge of rewarding official misconduct; he stayed out of jail by testifying against his co-conspirators. He gave $1 million in illegal gifts to New York State officials, and the state invested $250 million with his investment firm. One of the interesting details was that as part of the gifts, Broidy paid $90,000 to the mistress of one of the New York officials.
Fast forward to 2017. With Trump in office, Broidy was ready to really cash in. According to emails obtained by the Wall Street Journal, he was negotiating a deal in which he would use his influence to get the Justice Department to drop its investigation of a Malaysian company called 1MDB, for which Broidy and his wife would be paid $75 million. But the biggest haul was set to come from the Middle East.
Broidy teamed up with George Nader, a Lebanese American who had lots of connections in the region and his own run-ins with the law: He had been convicted of sexually abusing minors in the Czech Republic and spent a year in prison there. Now Nader was based in the UAE and had built a relationship with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, as well as Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. According to the AP:
From the start, the men had a two-track mission: to carry out a campaign against Qatar that would curry favor with the princes, and to then turn that success into millions of dollars in defense deals, documents show.
They would sell the Saudis and the UAE on consulting contracts for intelligence services and building a new Muslim fighting force of 5,000 soldiers, for which Broidy and Nader would be paid more than $1 billion. In exchange, they would get the American government on board with the Saudi/UAE campaign against Qatar.
The details are complex, but among the things we know is that Broidy had multiple meetings with Trump, in which he urged the president to support the Saudis and Emiratis against Qatar. American policy toward Qatar has been erratic; Trump supported the Saudi/UAE blockade of Qatar, but we haven’t removed our military base.
And there’s much more to be learned about George Nader as well. On Saturday, the New York Times reported that in 2016 Nader met with Donald Trump Jr. and offered the help of the Saudis and Emiratis in getting his father elected:
Mr. Nader was quickly embraced as a close ally by Trump campaign advisers — meeting frequently with Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, and Michael T. Flynn, who became the president’s first national security adviser. At the time, Mr. Nader was also promoting a secret plan to use private contractors to destabilize Iran, the regional nemesis of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.
Like many aspects of the Trump corruption scandal, when you peel back one layer, you find more and more layers. For instance, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that Nader also has ties to Russia. Like Broidy, at the very least he could be facing criminal charges for acting as an agent of a foreign government without registering. And Nader is now cooperating with Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.
Once we learn everything there is to learn, the Trump scandals may not wrap up into a neat and easily understandable package. But all the Trump scandals all lead back to one story — a story about incredibly corrupt people, including the president himself, trampling over the law and the interests of the country in order to stuff their own pockets. And it just keeps getting bigger.