Members of the Trump transition team appear to have met on December 12, 2016, with a group from Qatar that included Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, the former Qatari diplomat who at the time was the head of a division of Qatar’s massive sovereign wealth fund, who is accused in a recent lawsuit of scheming to bribe Trump administration officials.
Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for adult film actress Stormy Daniels, shared Sunday an ambiguous tweet showing a group of unidentified men in a Trump Tower elevator with Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney.
The photos include a person who appears to be Al-Rumaihi, who in late 2016 and 2017 was part of an aggressive Qatari effort to forge ties with members of the Trump administration. It has not previously been reported that Qataris, including Al-Rumaihi, met with Cohen in December 2016. Avenatti later followed up with another tweet asking why Cohen was meeting with Al-Rumaihi and Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser.
Ice Cube, the rapper and actor, and his business partner, Jeff Kwatinetz, recently filed a $1.2 billion lawsuit that includes an allegation that Al-Rumaihi and other Qatari officials who invested in the men’s BIG3 basketball league indicated interest in gaining access to people connected to Trump. “Mr Al-Rumaihi requested I set up a meeting between him, the Qatari government, and Stephen Bannon, and to tell Steve Bannon that Qatar would underwrite all of his political efforts in return for his support,” Kwatinetz said in the court filing. Kwatinetz says he rejected the offer, which he viewed as a bribe.
In response, Kwatinetz claims, “Al-Rumaihi laughed and then stated to me that I shouldn’t be naive, that so many Washington politicians take our money, and stated ‘do you think Flynn turned down our money?’” That’s a reference to Michael Flynn, who was fired as Trump’s national security adviser after lying about his contacts with then Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Sports Trinity, a group that included the Qatari investors in BIG3, claims that Kwantinetz is lying. “The statements in Mr. Kwatinetz’s declaration are pure Hollywood fiction,” a spokesperson for the group said in a statement. “Mr. Kwatinetz is engaging in a xenophobic PR smear campaign against Sport Trinity, the largest investor in BIG3 basketball, to cover up his own mismanagement and erratic behavior with respect to the league.”
Last week Avenatti released a report, later largely confirmed, that detailed secret payments by several corporations to a limited liability company set up by Cohen. In another picture Avenatti posted along with the photos of Al-Rumaihi, Cohen speaks with Flynn. Avenatti’s photo of Flynn appears to be a screenshot of a YouTube video that does not feature the footage of Al-Rumaihi. Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents and is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia.
The Qatari Embassy and Qatari Investment Authority did not respond Sunday to requests for comment on Al-Rumaihi’s presence at Trump Tower and purpose of the meeting.