UAE paid business consultant to snoop on Trump: Report

WASHINGTON (Sputnik): The White House, CIA and Justice Department declined to comment on the allegations, with the businessman’s lawyer stressing that his client was “not an intelligence operative.” “

Rashid al-Malik, an Emirati businessman whose name came up in a federal probe into possible illegal donations to pro-Trump groups, served as a secret paid intelligence source for the sheikdom’s intelligence services in 2017, The Intercept has reported, citing official documents and unnamed sources said to be familiar with the matter.

According to the publication, al-Malik, formally working as an investment consultant, was given an official code name, and paid “tens of thousands of dollars a month” by the Emirati government to search for information on the then-incoming Trump administration’s Middle East policy.

Specifically, Abu Dhabi reportedly sought to find out about Washington’s stance in the conflict between Saudi Arabia and the UAE and Qatar, the details of US officials’ meetings with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the administration’s attitudes toward the Muslim Brotherhood.

The businessman, who left the US and returned to his home country after being interviewed in the Mueller probe into alleged foreign meddling into US affairs, also reportedly tried to start up a business partnership with a firm indirectly associated with the president, whose business empire prior to his election included a network of real estate investments, golf courses, clubs and hotels, among other interests.

The publication was not able to ascertain the specifics of the business proposal, and whether or not a deal was reached.

However, a source with direct knowledge of UAE intelligence operations said that the UAE’s intelligence service and the country’s government “clearly think they can influence Trump by doing business with him.”

Among Al-Malik’s suspected ties was Tom Barrack, a former investment banker and Trump ally who chaired the president’s inaugural committee, and sought to use his investment firm’s foreign connections to support US policy abroad.

A spokesman of Barrack’s said al-Malik had always been honest about being “on retainer” with the UAE government.

US officials and the UAE’s Embassy in the US declined to comment on the story. However, Al-Malik lawyer Bill Coffield insisted that his client was an investment consultant and businessman who “loves the UAE and the US,” and “not an intelligence operative.”

“He has NEVER been paid to report on the Trump Administration” or been “‘tasked’ to deliver information about the inner workings of the Trump administration,” Coffield said.

Since Trump’s election, his administration’s Middle Eastern foreign policy objectives have generally intertwined with those of the UAE.

The US has supported Abu Dhabi and Riyadh in the Qatar blockade, and aided the Saudi-UAE coalition in its ongoing military campaign in Yemen.

In May, Abu Dhabi accused hostile forces of engaging in “acts of sabotage” against four tankers off the UAE’s coast.

Last week, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Norway, whose ships were targeted in the May 12 attacks, issued a joint statement at a UN briefing, claiming that mines placed by divers were used in a “sophisticated and coordinated operation” to attack the ships.

Earlier, Trump national security adviser John Bolton accused Iran of being behind the “sabotage.” Iran has denied any involvement, and called for an objective investigation into the incidents.