- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2018

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election meddling has recently questioned a sometime associate of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

According to a report by the online news site Axios, George Nader, who has recently talked to the special counsel on at least two occasions, was a frequent White House visitor during President’s Trump’s first few months in office.

The report states that Mr. Nader claimed to have deep Arabian Gulf connections, including to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, who also serves as the deputy supreme commander of the UAE’s armed forces. However, regional experts have said they had no knowledge of Mr. Nader.

The latest revelation from Mr. Mueller’s probe comes after last week’s stunning development that Mr. Bannon agreed to an interview with the special counsel’s investigators on the same day he declined to answer a congressional probe’s questions about his time working for Mr. Trump.

Legal experts viewed Mr. Bannon’s move as a major turning point in the Trump-Russia investigation and as a sign the combative strategist — who had a nasty public falling out with the president after being quoted extensively in a tell-all book about the White House — is now fully cooperating with the special counsels’ inquiry.

Since his probe began over seven months ago, Mr. Mueller has reportedly interviewed more than a dozen current and former White House officials.

But what his specific interest is in Mr. Bannon has some close to the investigation scratching their heads — especially since the his name was rarely connected with the multiple federal and congressional Russia investigations that have dominated headlines for the past year.

Mr. Mueller’s investigation is working in concentric circles — so leads head every direction — which can make the tea leaves very hard to read,” an attorney close to the White House told The Washington Times on condition on anonymity.

What Mr. Nader could mean to the overall probe was a subject of speculation in Washington on Monday, with suggestions that Mr. Mueller had targeted him as a way of getting information on Mr. Bannon.

Axios also reported that sources familiar with the White House claimed the president’s son-in-law and special advisor, Jared Kushner, also met Mr. Nader but quickly decided not to continue meeting with him.

While the White House often states the special counsels’ probe is close to wrapping up, legal experts have told The Times that the secrecy with which Mr. Mueller is conducting his work means any suggestions about his timeline “are mere conjecture.”

Appointed as a special counsel last May, Mr. Mueller’s office has spent some $7 million on its Russia investigation, which has resulted in criminal charges for four former Trump campaign and administration officials.

The White House, while pledging to cooperate with Mr. Mueller, has repeatedly denounced allegations of Russian collusion as a “witch hunt” and a “hoax.”


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