Top GOP donor and Trump ally Elliott Broidy was paid over $100million by the United Arab Emirates for an illegal smear campaign against its Middle East rival Qatar, a lawsuit claims.
Lawyers for a Qatari travel company say the UAE paid Broidy ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ to lobby US government officials to take anti-Qatari positions.
The travel company, Mosafer, claims Broidy created a ‘disinformation campaign’, using fake news to scare off Americans from visiting or supporting Qatar.
The bombshell claims, made in a California federal civil lawsuit filed this month, include that Broidy’s UAE-funded scheme with Trump campaign adviser George Nader broke lobbying laws designed to prevent foreign influence on government officials.
Nader is currently serving 10 years for child sex trafficking.
Top GOP donor and businessman Elliott Broidy (left) is accused of being paid $100M by the United Arab Emirates to run an ‘illegal smear campaign’ with former Trump campaign adviser and convicted pedophile George Nader (right) against rival country Qatar
The federal lawsuit was filed this month by Mosafer chairman and CEO Ashraf Abdul Rahim Abu Issa, who blames the scheme for ruining his travel business. Pictured: Mosafer flagship store in Midtown Manhattan
Broidy pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered foreign agent in October last year over his lobbying for Chinese and Malaysian interests, but the prosecution was halted when then-president Donald Trump pardoned him in January.
In an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, Mosafer chairman and CEO Ashraf Abdul Rahim Abu Issa described how the alleged smear campaign ‘destroyed’ his company – and his lawyer laid out their claims of the sophisticated scheme run by Broidy and Nader using advertisements and articles shared on social media.
‘The disinformation campaign orchestrated by Broidy and Nader destroyed what took me 35 years to build,’ Abu Issa said.
The CEO said his ambitions for his company, which has a flagship store on 57th street in Manhattan, ‘went up in flames after Broidy and Nader began a smear campaign portraying Qatar as an unsafe country that harbored terrorists.’
‘Our travel business evaporated due to massive cancellations,’ he said. ‘
After the ads and social media campaign began, falsely claiming that Qatar harbored terrorists, clients told us they were afraid to travel to Qatar, concerned for their safety.
‘Many directly mentioned what was in the ads and in social media. People were even scared to enter our stores, we were told. Some banks froze our accounts.
Ashraf Abdul Rahim Abu Issa says his company lost millions of dollars after Broidy’s alleged scheme portrayed Qatar as a dangerous country
‘We were unable to renew some of our trade licenses. We couldn’t even sell our stores and were forced to close them right when they were becoming profitable.’
Abu Issa’s lawsuit claims that his company lost hundreds of millions of dollars over the alleged smear campaign, and that Broidy and Nader were paid ‘hundreds of millions’ for it.
‘In exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars, Defendants Broidy and Nader yielded their tremendous political influence to lobby United States government officials to take anti-Qatari positions,’ the legal complaint said.
‘Broidy and Nader’s efforts did not stop at mere lobbying, however. Instead, they spearheaded a widespread disinformation campaign… which targeted Qatar and Qatari-American businesses – with the goal of inflicting catastrophic financial loss -using tactics remarkably similar to those employed by the Russians when they interfered with the 2016 Presidential Election.’
As well as lobbying officials, the lawsuit claimed Broidy created fake news sites including Qaterexposed.com and BoycottQatarnow.com, then used a network of social media accounts and ‘influencers’ at conferences to spread the disinformation.
Mosafer claims that Broidy hired controversial company SCL for the campaign, which has reportedly been used by governments to wage psychological warfare through propaganda, and boasted it helped Trump win in the 2016 presidential election by targeting voters on social media with aggressive campaign ads.
Broidy’s lawyer, George Terwilliger III of McGuireWoods LLP said: ‘Mr. Broidy will vigorously defend himself against this disturbing abuse of the U.S. court system and attack on the First Amendment.
‘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 federal lawsuit, filed in California, claims Broidy and Nader ‘spearheaded a widespread disinformation campaign… which targeted Qatar and Qatari-American businesses’
A spokesperson for Broidy added: ‘This lawsuit is full of easily refutable lies. For instance, Mr. Broidy has never heard of, let alone worked with, any of the social media and PR firms named as defendants in this case.’
Former LA prosecutor and district judge Steve Larson, who represents Mosafer in their lawsuit, said he believed the campaign was similar to Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
‘The fact an American consumer, their travel habits, what they do, where they go, who they see, can be manipulated by nefarious forces operating not just on a domestic level but on an international level to affect their lives, that should be most concerning to any American,’ he said.
‘It’s not just this travel agency and this country. It’s the fact that this type of manipulation, deceit and disinformation campaigns can be operated, and just how sophisticated this is.’
Larson told DailyMail.com that Broidy’s alleged influence scheme came in three phases.
‘In the first phase they aggressively and we allege illegally lobbied members of the US government to sever all ties with Qatar and boycott its economy,’ he said.
‘Second phase was paying influencers to create conferences around the world to further ingrain this fake news about what was going on in Qatar to try to influence US consumers.
‘The third phase of this was the utilization of the internet network. They used maligning hashtags, so when Californians searched the internet for our clients or similar businesses, merely by including the word ‘Qatar’ it would fast track that searcher into a universe of fake news websites.’
As a CEO of a major Qatari company, Abu Issa is close to the state’s Al Thani royal family.
He accompanied Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in a delegation to the US in 2018, another to China in 2019 and Kenya in 2017.
Although Abu Issa’s lawsuit highlights Broidy’s failure to register as a foreign agent, the Qatari CEO also serves on the board of a non-profit that was suspected of also operating as an unregistered foreign agent.
Broidy (pictured with his wife Robin in 2010) pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered foreign agent in October last year over his lobbying for Chinese and Malaysian interests
Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, who once served as a liaison between the US and UAE, is serving a 10-year sentence for child sex trafficking and child pornography
Abu Issa serves on the board of directors of the US-based Qatar-America Institute, which last year was forced by the Department of Justice to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) as an agent of the State of Qatar.
‘QAI did not believe [its] activities constituted political activities under FARA,’ the organization wrote in its filing. But ‘in response to a March 12, 2020, letter from the U.S. Department of Justice, QAI has made the decision to register.’
Its filing revealed it had received $6.2 million from the Qatari government. No charges were filed against QAI.
Mosafer’s lawsuit says that before Broidy was pardoned by Trump, prosecutors were gathering information not just on the GOP donor’s lobbying for Chinese and Malaysian interests, but also his alleged work for the UAE.
Citing news reports, the complaint claimed Broidy and Nader repeatedly pushed Trump to meet privately with the UAE’s leader and tried to get Trump’s secretary of state Rex Tillerson fired because he refused to take a harder stance against Qatar.
Abu Issa serves on the board of directors of the US-based Qatar-America Institute, which last year was forced to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) as an agent of the State of Qatar
The legal papers pointed to a $200million ‘intelligence-gathering’ contract the UAE awarded to Broidy’s firm as evidence of the strong financial ties between him and the Gulf country.
Mosafer’s lawsuit is the latest grenade in a bitter legal war between Broidy and Qatar.
Last year the GOP donor filed a legal complaint against a cybersecurity firm run by ex-CIA agents, claiming Qatar paid them $100million to hack his emails and the communications of other American citizens as part of a years-long campaign of spying and blackmail.
According to Broidy’s federal lawsuit, Global Risk Advisors (GRA) and its ex-spy founder Kevin Chalker used hackers with experience in the US Special Forces and intelligence branches to further the Gulf state’s foreign policy and even ‘intercepted sensitive and private information of U.S. Citizens’.
GRA’s lawyer told DailyMail.com at the time that the allegations were false and that Broidy ‘has a well-documented history of dishonesty’.
In March a judge dismissed the complaint, saying Broidy ‘adequately alleged’ that GRA had the ability to hack his emails, but failed to ‘plausibly’ show they actually did it.
‘The only identifiable facts about the hacks (e.g. IP addresses linked to a limited number of hacks) are not linked to Defendants in any way and cannot lead to a plausible inference of their liability,’ Judge Mary Vyskocil wrote in the ruling.
Qatar has previously denied hacking.
Broidy’s legal complaint accused GRA of hacking his emails and leaking them to the press in 2018, claiming it was done because of his criticism of Qatar.
The leaked emails revealed Broidy was working closely with Nader, an advisor to the UAE’s crown prince, to undermine Qatar’s standing in Washington while pursuing a multi-million dollar security contract with Qatar’s rival, the Emirates.
The emails sparked the FBI investigation into Broidy’s failure to register as a foreign agent, and were noted in Mosafer’s new lawsuit against him.
Broidy’s lawsuit against GRA also claimed Qatar first hired Chalker after he retired from the CIA in 2008 to help run a huge propaganda and hacking campaign to beat America in the competition to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament – a prize worth billions of dollars to Qatar.
Ever since winning hosting rights for the tournament, Qatar’s bid has been dogged by allegations of corruption, including in an April 2020 legal filing by the US Department of Justice which accused the Arab state of bribing FIFA officials to win.
Broidy, who is married with children, served as deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee, but stepped down in 2018 after reports alleged he impregnated a Playboy model and agreed to pay her $1.6 million in a confidentiality agreement arranged by Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen.
Broidy also served as finance chairman of the RNC from 2005 to 2008. A year later, prosecutors found he had plied New York officials with nearly $1 million in illegal gifts before the state’s pension fund invested $250 million with him.
He pled guilty to a misdemeanor after cooperating and paying back $18 million in management fees.