Another of former special counsel Robert Mueller‘s key witnesses has pleaded guilty to criminal charges–but this time, the charges aren’t directly related to the Mueller probe at all. On Monday, George Nader pleaded guilty to child sex trafficking and possession of child pornography in a federal courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia.
Nader is believed to have orchestrated a 2016 meeting between former national security advisor Michael Flynn, presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, then-strategist Steven Bannon and United Arab Emirates (“UAE”) Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
A high-profile hanger-on and Trump ally, Nader is additionally believed to have organized a controversial 2017 meeting in the Seychelles during which mercenary Erik Prince and others–including Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund–met with bin Zayed. Nader also offered his services to Donald Trump Jr. at an infamous Trump Tower meeting in 2016.
Nader’s myriad connections to Trumpworld–and the various allegations of international impropriety–are what initially put him in Mueller’s sights as an important witness in January 2018.
Served a grand jury subpoena, Nader was explicitly questioned as to whether the UAE had improperly tried to influence members of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. In return for his testimony in Mueller’s foreign interference investigation, he was given immunity from prosecution for any potential charges related to those issues.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents followed up on the lead and gained access to Nader’s cell phones. Once those devices were in the FBI’s possession, child pornography was apparently discovered—depicting children as young as three years of age. Nader was arrested on charges related to those files in June 2019 and accused of “transporting visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.”
Nader was slapped with additional charges–including the sex trafficking allegation–in July 2019. In that second indictment, Nader was accused of flying a 14-year-old boy from Europe to the United States for sexual abuse. His defense team later fought an unsuccessful effort to have those charges dismissed based on the statute of limitations. A federal judge ruled against him in November 2019 and allowed the prosecution to proceed.
The statute of limitations surrounding that incident actually had already tolled—but were eliminated in 2006 and retroactively applied to Nader’s behavior. Judge Leonie M. Brinkema reasoned that the government’s prosecution was “timely” and therefore the retroactivity statute could apply.
A small kerfuffle occurred in March 2018–immediately prior to Nader’s arrest. British tabloid the Daily Mail and the Washington Post‘s Beirut Bureau Chief Liz Sly claimed that Nader had jumped bail–or attempted to jump bail–after receiving immunity from Mueller.
“George Nader, who was cooperating with the Mueller investigation, has fled to the UAE after UAE officials ‘pulled strings; with the Trump administration, the Daily Mail reports,” Sly tweeted. Nader’s attorney, however, vehemently denied the accusation.
Kathryn Ruemmler, a former Obama White House counsel who serves as one of Nader’s attorneys, told MSNBC‘s Rachel Maddow that the Daily Mail report was “totally and unequivocally false” but also confirmed that Nader traveled “back and forth between the United States and the UAE regularly”–confusion over which apparently led the press to character such travels as an escape attempt.
But apparently Nader did have reason to flee.
Earlier that year, The Atlantic reported on his prior sex crimes charges and convictions. One such set of charges–which did not result in a conviction–was filed in 1985. In 1991, however, Nader was convicted of transporting child pornography and given a six-month sentence. Records in that case were sealed due to his status as something of a Republican Party foreign policy wunderkind.
But neither his attachment to the institutional GOP’s foreign policy elite or his overtures to the Trump administration seem to have worked to his benefit now.
According to the Washington Post, Nader pleaded guilty and faces up to 10 years in prison. While the statutory maximum for his conduct is 30 years, in exchange for his plea, federal prosecutors agreed to request the statutory minimum sentence. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 10.
[image via screengrab/CSPAN]