Special counsel Robert Mueller is looking at a close friend of senior White House aide Jared Kushner over possible ties to the United Arab Emirates after the businessman was revealed to be in the proximity of several top meetings between Trump officials.
New York-based hedge fund manager Richard Gerson is under Mueller investigator’s scrutiny by due to being close to two meetings that top members of the Trump campaign had with UAE officials including Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (MBZ), NBC News reports.
Gerson was reportedly in Seychelles in January 2017, the same time that Trump adviser and brother to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Erik Prince, was in the country to secretly meet with MBZ and other UAE officials.
During that time, Gerson communicated with George Nader, the businessman who had set up Prince’s meeting, as well as with MBZ himself, according to NBC sources.
Gerson also met with Nader weeks earlier when Trump officials met with Nader and MBZ at the New York Four Seasons hotel, where Kushner himself was also in attendance.
A spokesperson for Gerson told NBC that Gerson knew nothing about Prince’s meeting in Seychelles despite communicating with the meeting’s organizer, and claimed that Gerson had no relationship with Prince.
“Mr. Gerson was on vacation in the Seychelles prior to the meeting you reference. He knew nothing about the meeting, had left before the meeting was reported to have taken place, and has never met or communicated with Erik Prince,” the spokesperson told NBC.
At The Four Seasons meeting, the spokesman added, Gerson attended alongside former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who invited Gerson to discuss Israeli-Palestinian relations with the officials.
“Mr. Gerson attended the meeting in New York along with Mr. Blair to discuss this issue,” the spokesman said.
Mueller is looking into whether the Seychelles meeting between Prince and UAE officials served to set up a backchannel between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to news reports.
So far, the special counsel’s investigation has spawned a number of charges, though none related to Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty last year to lying to FBI investigators, while former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is battling charges of tax fraud and money laundering over his lobbying work for pro-Russian political groups in Ukraine.