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A top GOP donor and Donald Trump ally was paid millions of dollars by the United Arab Emirates to engineer a smear campaign against rival Persian Gulf state Qatar, according to an explosive lawsuit.
Elliott Broidy — a former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee who pleaded guilty last year to charges that he illegally lobbied the US on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests — now stands accused of illegally lobbying federal officials to take “anti-Qatari” positions and of “orchestrating a disinformation campaign” against the country, according to the suit filed by a Qatari luxury travel company.
In 2018, Broidy stepped down as deputy finance chair of the RNC after reports that he agreed to pay $1.6 million as part of a confidentiality agreement to a former Playboy model whom he allegedly impregnated. That payment was arranged in 2017 by Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen.
Now, Broidy and another former Trump advisor, George Nader — who is also a defendant in the complaint and is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence on child sex-trafficking charges — are accused of hiring internet trolls and influencers to claim that Qatar businesses were sponsors of terrorist groups and of setting up websites like Qaterexposed.com and BoycottQatarnow.com, the lawsuit claims.
“Mr. Broidy will vigorously defend himself against this disturbing abuse of the U.S. court system and attack on the First Amendment,” his lawyer, George J. Terwilliger III of McGuireWoods LLP said in a statement to The Post. “This is a shameful attempt to silence an American who dared to speak out about Qatar’s human rights record and ties to terrorism.”
The complaint was filed Thursday afternoon in federal court in the Central District of California by Mosafer Inc., a retail and travel company .
Before Broidy was pardoned, prosecutors were prepared to present evidence of his efforts to obtain business from a Middle Eastern country and to influence US policy toward a second Middle Eastern country, according to the complaint. Those countries, the complaint alleges, are the UAE and Qatar, respectively.
“As confirmed by prosecutors, Broidy’s unregistered foreign lobbying efforts extended far beyond those that he pled guilty to,” Mosafer alleges in the complaint, pointing to the government investigation. “Broidy and Nader acted as unregistered agents of the UAE in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.”
The duo even allegedly tried to get former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson fired because he did not support a confrontational approach to Qatar, the suit alleges.
The campaign took off after the UAE joined a boycott of Qatar in June 2017, after which Broidy, who was vice chairman of the Trump Victory Committee, and Nader, a Lebanese-born American businessman, used their political connections to lobby against Qatar, according to the complaint.
Mosafer, which had a massive store in Manhattan on West 57th Street that it was forced to close in 2019, suffered “catastrophic losses” as a result of the smear initiative, its counsel, Stephen Larson, told The Post.
“Its core business was travel packages to Qatar and that has been wiped out,” Larson said.
The company, which is a unit of a family owned hospitality services and retail conglomerate — AbuIssa Holdings — had no idea who was behind the campaign until recently, Larson told The Post.
“The government’s investigation and what we have observed publicly over the last two years has helped to piece this together,” Larson said. “This lawsuit is being brought because of an abuse of power by individuals who were afforded special access to the US government and used that to destroy businesses.”
Broidy has had other brushes with the law.
In 2009, New York prosecutors probed the state pension fund’s decision to invest $250 million with Broidy and found he had plied state officials with nearly $1 million in illegal gifts. The charges were knocked down to a misdemeanor after he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and pay back $18 million in management fees.
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