Israeli-Linked Firm Suspected of Helping Trump Get Elected: Reports
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged foreign meddling in the 2016 US election took an unexpected turn as it is now looking into “social media manipulation” by an Israeli-linked company, The New York Times reported.
According to the report, the special counsel’s team is investigating contacts between Joel Zamel, an Israeli social media expert, and George Nader, a special adviser to the UAE leaders, who purportedly offered to help Donald Trump win the race.
The New York Times suggested that the third person, who served as a mediator, having arranged the meeting between the two, was Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater, private security contractor, Sputnik reported.
The alleged meeting took place on August 3, 2016, three months ahead of the presidential election, with Nader telling Donald Trump Jr. that Saudi Arabia and the UAE were willing to help his father win the election, while Zamel exalted his firm’s ability to boost a political campaign.
According to the NYT piece, by that time, the company had already worked out a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to increase Trump’s chances to win. At the same time, the media outlet stated that it is unclear if the proposal was eventually executed, but reported, citing a source with knowledge of the meeting, that Trump Jr. approved of the plan.
The NYT claimed that Nader transferred a generous amount of money (allegedly as high as $2 million) to Zamel after Trump was elected.
“There are conflicting accounts of the reason for the payment, but among other things, a company linked to Mr. Zamel provided Mr. Nader with an elaborate presentation about the significance of social media campaigning to Mr. Trump’s victory,” the report read.
The report suggested that Zamel was questioned by Mueller’s investigators and at least two FBI agents were sent to Israel to interview the firm’s employees; the special counsel’s team also cooperated with the Israel Police to confiscate computers of one of Zamel’s companies. The media outlet also stated, citing sources familiar with the case that “investigators have questioned numerous witnesses in Washington, New York, Atlanta, Tel Aviv and elsewhere about what foreign help may have been pledged or accepted.”
Zamel’s attorney denied his client had participated in the Trump campaign:
“Neither Joel Zamel, nor any of his related entities, had any involvement whatsoever in the US election campaign. The D.O.J. clarified from Day 1 that Joel and his companies have never been a target of the investigation. My client provided full cooperation to the government to assist with their investigation,” said the lawyer, Marc L. Mukasey.
Kathryn Ruemmler, a lawyer for Nader, also claimed that her client “has fully cooperated with the special counsel’s investigation and will continue to do so.”
According to the NYT, Erik Prince refused to comment on the report, while the White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Robert Mueller was originally tasked with investigating Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections amid claims that Moscow had colluded with President Donald Trump’s campaign team to influence the outcome of the vote. Russia has consistently denied any involvement, denouncing the accusation as “absurd,” while Trump has repeatedly dismissed the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt.”
In late April, the US House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee found no collusion between Trump and the Kremlin, which prompted many officials, including US Vice-President Mike Pence, to urge Mueller to “wrap up” his year-long probe.