Elliott Broidy, a defense contractor and Republican fundraiser who had a top position on President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, is being investigated by a federal grand jury in Brooklyn.
The Associated Press reports that prosecutors are looking into whether Broidy used his position of influence as the vice chair of Trump’s inaugural committee to leverage business deals with foreign leaders, including the current president of Angola and two politicians in Romania.
The Eastern District of New York is conducting the probe, which appears to be separate from another investigation into the fundraising practices of Trump’s inaugural committee by the Southern District of New York in Manhattan.
The New York Times reported in February that EDNY prosecutors were also examining whether foreigners illegally contributed to Trump’s inaugural committee through straw donors — but this latest news focuses on whether Broidy himself tried to illegally gain from his connections to Trump and his inauguration.
Who is Elliott Broidy, and what does he have to do with Trump’s inauguration?
Broidy is 61-year-old Los Angeles investor, defense contractor, and Republican fundraiser whose security firm, Circinus, appears to be the target of scrutiny by federal prosecutors. (It’s also probably worth mentioning: In 2009, Broidy pleaded guilty to bribery charges after giving New York state officials $1 million in gifts before securing a $250 million investment deal with the state’s public pension fund.)
Authorities are reportedly examining whether Broidy advertised to his ties to Trump to attract clients to profit his business. The New York Times reported in March 2018 on Broidy’s somewhat sketchy ties:
Mr. Broidy offered tickets to V.I.P. inauguration events, including a candlelight dinner attended by Mr. Trump, to a Congolese strongman accused of funding a lavish lifestyle with public resources. He helped arrange a meeting with Republican senators and offered a trip to Mar-a-Lago, the president’s private Florida resort, for an Angolan politician. And he arranged an invitation to a party at Mr. Trump’s Washington hotel for a Romanian parliamentarian facing corruption charges, who posted a photograph with the president on Facebook.
Some of Broidy’s foreign connections emerged through a leak of emails last year. (Broidy has alleged Qatar was behind that hack, and that some of the emails were falsified.) But as the Associated Press points out, many of the names included in those emails are also part of the subpoena, including the former defense minister, and now president, of Angola and two Romanian politicians.
Broidy’s attorneys told the AP that Broidy’s firm never had a contract with Romanian officials, and that the agreement with Angola dates back to 2016, and doesn’t have any connection to Trump’s inauguration. “Any implication to the contrary is completely false,” the statement said.
And the plot thickens: Included on the subpoena, according to the AP, is George Nader, who also cooperated in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Nader — who acted as an advisor to the United Arab Emirates — reportedly worked with Broidy to influence the White House and other politicians on Middle East policy. As Vox’s Andrew Prokop previously explained, Broidy and Nader “discussed how Broidy could use his influence in Washington to lobby on behalf of Saudi and Emirati foreign policy objectives, like taking a hard line against Qatar and Iran.”
In exchange, Broidy and Nader expected to secure lucrative deals with the UAE and Saudi Arabia. As the New York Times reported last year, Nader did help bring about $200 million in contracts from the UAE to Broidy’s firm, Circinus.
If this all sounds extraordinarily complicated, it is — and so far, there are just glimpses of what prosecutors might be investigating, based on the AP’s latest report and past media reports on Broidy’s relationships and business dealings.
But it all goes back to a question that’s dogged Trump’s presidency in various forms — whether the business interests of Trump, and those he surrounds himself with, are influencing US policy.
Broidy’s name has come up before in Trumpian drama — specifically related to the hush money payments made by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. Cohen helped arrange approximately $1.6 million in payments to former Playboy model Shera Bechard to keep quiet about a 2017 affair with Broidy, including the fact that he allegedly impregnated her and she had an abortion as a result. In April 2018, Broidy was forced to resign from his position on the Republican National Committee.