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Trump was 'offered election help' from Saudi, Emirati crown princes: report

Donald Trump and his eldest son at a NRA meeting in Dallas [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 May, 2018

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This marks the first time a country other than Russia reportedly offered assistance to help Donald Trump win the US presidency.

The US president's eldest son Donald Trump Jr met in 2016 with an envoy representing the crown princes of the UAE and Saudi Arabia who offered election help, according to a new report by the New York Times.

It marks the first time countries other than Russia are reported to have offered assistance -- it is illegal for foreign governments to play any campaign role under US law.

The meeting, which Donald Trump Jr's lawyer confirmed, was held on 3 August 2016. It was arranged by the controversial Erik Prince, the founder of security contractor Blackwater. It also included Joel Zamel, a co-founder of an Israeli consulting firm, and George Nader, the Lebanese-American envoy connected to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Trump Jr's lawyer Alan Futerfas said nothing came of the meeting.

“Prior to the 2016 election, Donald Trump Jr. recalls a meeting with Erik Prince, George Nader and another individual who may be Joel Zamel,” he said via email. “They pitched Mr Trump Jr on a social media platform or marketing strategy. He was not interested and that was the end of it”.

The New York Times reported that a firm connected to Zamel drafted a "covert multimillion-dollar online manipulation campaign" to help Trump win by using social media robots.

Nader had reportedly told Trump Jr that the crown princes were eager to offer election assistance to secure his victory.

The US barred foreign assistance to elections in 1974. Campaign financing laws also prohibit any coordination between campaigns and foreign governments or individuals. 

Last month, investigators working for US Special Counsel Robert Mueller met with Zamel and inquired about his relationship with Nader. 

Mueller is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the presidential election. He is also investigating whether Trump committed obstruction of justice by his decision to sack FBI director James Comey. 

Trump has called the investigation a "witch hunt".

The US, already a close ally of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, has seen strengthened ties since Trump assumed office. The US president's first official foreign trip was to Riyadh. 

Trump pulled the US out of the 2015 Iran nuclear accord earlier this month. The Islamic Republic is an arch-rival of Saudi Arabia, which, along with Trump, was a fierce critic of former US president Barack Obama's Middle East policy. 

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