The president surrounded himself with a tangled web of interests during his rise to power, and the task has largely fallen to Special Counsel Robert Mueller to untangle that web in the course of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The Wall Street Journal is now reporting on yet another interest that’s been drawn into Mueller’s inquiry; this time around, it’s a consulting firm called Wikistrat that completed work for the United Arab Emirates and has tenuous connections to another Trump ally who has already come under scrutiny, George Nader.
According to the publication, one of the firm’s co-founders, Joel Zamel, has met “informally” with the special counsel’s team and was pressed about his relationship with Nader, which according to a source for the article from The Journal is an “arm’s length” one.
Mueller’s team also asked Zamel about his work “for certain clients,” according to The Journal.
Zamel’s firm Wikistrat conducted “war game scenarios” involving Islamist movements in Yemen for the U.A.E. government beginning in 2015 before moving into intelligence work, using its network of sources to warn the U.A.E.’s leadership of possible threats.
As for Nader, he met with Trump officials including Jared Kushner a number of times during the early months of the administration and has come under scrutiny in part for his role in arranging a meeting between Trump ally Erik Prince and Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian banking executive with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin himself. Prince, who also happens to be the brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, has insisted that the meeting was brief and unplanned and as such, represented no threat the integrity of the American political system.
Prince is not going to absolve himself of accountability for possible wrongdoing that easily, however. Besides recent reporting that an unnamed witness had testified in the Mueller probe that the meeting was meant to set up a back channel of communications between the Trump team and the Kremlin, meeting participant George Nader has also been reported to be cooperating with Mueller.
Besides that issue, Mueller has been reported to be examining the question of whether or not Nader funneled funds from the U.A.E. to illegally prop up the Trump campaign. Nader was first drawn into the Mueller probe on January 17, when he was first sidetracked from his plans and questioned for more than two hours. The FBI also seized his electronics at the time.
Mueller is continuing his probe in the face of repeated undercuts from the Trump team, although the Trump lawyer who recently called for his probe to be closed no longer even works for the president.
Even still, the president has continued when given the opportunity by other domestic political events to rail against the probe, asserting recently that it never should have been started.
He has declined to cooperate with the inquiry as fully as you’d expect if he was truly as innocent as he claims to be.
Mueller has so far brought charges against, besides an array of other interests, four former Trump associates.