For two years, the Emirati princess had been battling her estranged husband in Qatari courts for custody of their young son. She was running out of options. So, on the advice of friends “in diplomatic circles,” Princess Hend Al Qassemi traveled from Dubai to a place where she thought she might have a chance encounter with a powerful American official who could help: The Trump International Hotel.

Hend arrived in Washington on June 22, a date she chose to coincide with an event a Virginia women’s group was throwing to celebrate President Trump’s birthday. There, in the hotel lobby, she spotted none other than Rudolph W. Giuliani, personal attorney to the president of the United States.

“Lo and behold, there I was at the right place at the right time and met the right people,” Hend said in a telephone interview with The Washington Post. “Had I not been there, I wouldn’t have met Rudy.”

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The previously untold story of the princess in Washington is the latest example of foreign interests seeking access to the administration by turning to the president’s lawyer. It is also a vivid illustration of how the Trump hotel is perceived by some abroad as a portal to American power — and of how, in some cases, it can be exactly that.

Foreign diplomats, lobbyists, political appointees and aspiring Republican officeholders — all are regulars in a daily spectacle of Washington influence at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. Hend is not a professional in that world but believed, correctly, that she could have the ear of a confidant to the president if she just showed up.

In Hend’s telling, her custody case is caught in the political crosscurrents of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, two Persian Gulf nations that broke off relations two years ago. Hend said she is a member of the royal family in Sharjah, one of the emirates, and she says her estranged husband is a cousin of the emir of Qatar. Their divorce is recognized in her country but not in his, she said.

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She alleges that, one day in 2017, he pulled their son out of school and took him to Doha, the Qatari capital, without her permission. Hend traveled there and has been reunited with the child, now 11, but has not been permitted to leave the country with him, she said. A legal action she brought is ongoing, she said.

“Mr. Giuliani, an important lawyer, is currently helping me regain custody of my son ,” she wrote on Instagram in June, posting a picture of herself with Giuliani in the hotel lobby. “He is currently the lawyer for #PresidentTrump and is helping me end this #UnfairBattle.”

The princess told The Post that Giuliani boasted of his past work in Doha but told her that, because he represented the president, he was no longer doing business with Qatari clients. Giuliani arranged for her to meet a lawyer in New York City as well as a longtime friend and former business partner, lobbyist Tony Carbonetti, she said.

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Hend said that she met with Giuliani again at the Plaza Hotel in New York City and that she continued to press him for help after her return to Doha. 

Giuliani said in an interview that he initially thought Hend could be a paying client but concluded after talking with her that he could not help. Giuliani said the lawyer, whom he did not identify, told him he could not either.

“It was a total sob story,” Giuliani said. “I never lobbied the government on her behalf or made a dollar off of it.”

He said his past work for Qatar was part of a cybersecurity matter that involved “solving a hack.” Giuliani has continued to represent other foreign clients since becoming Trump’s attorney last year, breaking from long-standing protocols.

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Several days after she left Washington, Carbonetti met Hend at the Baccarat Hotel in New York City. He said he did not contact anyone in the U.S. government on her behalf and was not paid by her. He said he “passed her case off” to the Qatari Embassy.

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Carbonetti, who was once managing director of the consulting and security firm Giuliani Partners, said Giuliani reached out to him because he was a registered Qatari agent. Carbonetti’s firm, Blueprint Advisors, is paid $300,000 every three months by the Embassy of Qatar, according to lobbying records. 

“Rudy called me up and said she had a hardship case and asked me if I would listen to her,” Carbonetti told The Post. “I did.”

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The princess said that, in the days after she met with Carbonetti, she received a legal summons related to the custody case that required her to return immediately to Doha. She said she suspects Qatari authorities had become aware of her efforts in the United States, perhaps from her social media postings, and wanted to divert her.

“I think they saw the picture,” she said. “I think that when they saw I met up with Rudy, it was too close to home for them.”

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The government of Qatar declined to comment for this story. Efforts to reach Hend’s estranged husband through the Embassy of Qatar were not successful.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. Giuliani said he never raised Hend’s case with Trump, and there is no indication the president ever became aware of it.

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Less than two weeks after she met Giuliani, Trump hosted the top Qatari official, Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, at the White House. The president described him as a “highly respected man, a real leader” whose government is “investing very heavily in our country.”

In 2017, the UAE and three other Arab nations severed relations with Qatar and imposed a land and air blockade, alleging that Qatar aided militant Islamist groups. The United States has sought to maintain close military and diplomatic relations with all of these countries — including Qatar, an energy-rich nation that is home to a major base for U.S. military operations in the Middle East.

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“There is currently a cold war happening, and my son is caught in the middle of it,” Hend said.

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Hend’s trip to the Trump hotel came after months of her seeking advocates for her cause, which has been championed by some in far-right social media. Among them is Mohammad Tawhidi, an Australian Muslim cleric and outspoken critic of Qatar. 

Tawhidi and the princess have never met. He told The Post that he appealed to U.S. officials in recent months — he declined to say to whom — but was ignored.

Hend said she doesn’t agree with all the arguments made by Tawhidi, who calls himself the “imam of peace.” She is dismayed, she said, by his frequent accusations that Muslim political and religious leaders sponsor terrorism. But, she added: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend. . . . I’ve had random people try and help me.”

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Tawhidi’s tweets caught the attention of Emediong Akpabio, a Ni­ger­ian who describes himself as a human rights activist. Akpabio launched an online petition on the princess’s behalf that has collected several hundred signatures.

In Washington, Giuliani was not the only influential person to whom Hend turned for help. A couple months before staying at Trump’s hotel, she reached out to a well-connected lobbyist for a Persian Gulf nation. The lobbyist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case, provided The Post with records of their communications.

Members of the Qatari royal family “are acting like monsters,” she told the lobbyist, adding, “I am not looking for a scandal or money. I just want my baby back.”

But her visit to Washington in June signaled a new phase in her search for a powerful political fixer. “I didn’t go to Saudi, Kuwait or Oman,” she said. “I went to the big boys. I went to America.”

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Hend said she had heard from acquaintances in diplomatic circles — she declined to identify them — that pro-Trump events are frequently held at the hotel in the District. “At these events you can meet Republicans and people from the administration, which is what happened,” she said. 

The June reception she attended drew several hundred people to the hotel’s main ballroom on a Sunday afternoon. Tickets cost between $150 and $5,000, according to an online registration page. A Post reporter also was present. 

Two speakers credited Trump with saving their lives; one woman said a letter from Trump revived her on her deathbed, while another said she was considering suicide when she saw him appear on television.

Another speaker, Lucretia Hughes, recalled seeing as a child a “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” episode on TV that showed a solid-gold toilet in the Trump home.

“I’m going to sit at your toilet someday,” she thought at the time. Hughes finished her remarks by leading the crowd in a chant of “God! Family! Country! Trump!”

The princess was seated at a prominent table, with several of the speakers and the event’s emcee. Alice Butler-Short, the founder of Virginia Women for Trump, the for-profit group throwing the event, asked her to stand and be recognized after having traveled so far to attend.

Butler-Short said the group does not seek to make a profit, and in an interview last week, said Hend did not mention the custody battle. She recalled receiving a WhatsApp message from Hend’s assistant before the event, saying that she wanted to attend. Butler-Short had never heard of the princess.

“This sounds kind of suspicious,” Butler-Short said she thought at the time. Later she became convinced that Hend really was royalty. “Oh God, I better be polite,” she told herself.

More than a month after her two-day stay at the hotel, Hend again pressed Giuliani for help.

“Rudy, where are you?” she texted on Aug. 1. “I’m sorry for being troublesome but there are no relations between Qatar and most Arab states.”

Giuliani was on his way to a different part of the world.

“Headed for Madrid,” he texted back. He was en route, he recently acknowledged, to press Ukrainian officials to investigate Trump’s political rivals.

Staff writers Karen DeYoung, David A. Fahrenthold and Tom Hamburger contributed to this report.