From the Seychelles to the White House to Cambridge Analytica, Erik Prince and the UAE are key parts of the Trump story
In January 2017 Erik Prince attended a meeting in the Seychelles with the United Arab Emirate’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund Kirill Dmitriev, and George Nader, a former consultant for Erik Prince’s company Blackwater.
While Erik Prince testified in November 2017 to the House Intelligence Committee that the meeting with Dmitriev was unplanned, news broke last week that Mueller has evidence that Prince’s meeting with Putin’s ally Dmitriev may not have been a chance encounter, contradicting Prince’s sworn testimony. And, according to George Nader, a main purpose of the meeting was to set up a communication channel between the Russian government and the incoming Trump administration.
Earlier this year, a seemingly unrelated scandal erupted after a story broke about Trump’s data company Cambridge Analytica harvesting Facebook data on tens of millions of people. Shortly after that a Channel 4 News investigation revealed undercover film of Cambridge Analytica executives bragging about the dirty tricks they use to influence elections.
As the Cambridge Analytica scandal was unfolding, I broke the story about a new company Emerdata Limited, created by Cambridge Analytica executives, that in early 2018 added new board members Rebekah and Jennifer Mercer, Cheng Peng, Chun Shun Ko Johnson, who is a business partner of Erik Prince, and Ahmed Al Khatib, a ‘Citizen of Seychelles’.
In 2017 as Cambridge Analytica executives created Emerdata, they were also working on behalf of the UAE through SCL Social, which had a $330,000 contract to run a social media campaign for the UAE against Qatar, featuring the theme #BoycottQatar. One of the Emerdata directors may have ties to the UAE and the company name, coincidentally, sounds like a play on Emirati-Data…Emerdata.
The United Arab Emirates and people advocating for the interests of the UAE — including Prince, Nader, and Trump fundraiser Elliot Broidy who has done large business deals with the UAE — have started to appear frequently in news related to Mueller’s investigation. Erik Prince, the brother of the U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, lived in the UAE, attended the Seychelles meeting with the UAE’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, is business partners with Chun Shun Ko who just joined the board of the new Cambridge Analytica/SCL company Emerdata, and SCL had a large contract to work on behalf of the UAE.
To better understand the role Erik Prince and the UAE have played in the Trump-Russia story — and in the much broader story of global political influence, and often corruption — below is a timeline tracking some key events. Not all events are related, but reviewing the information chronologically may help answer a few questions, including: Why was the UAE involved in a meeting with Erik Prince to set up a communication channel with Russia? Is the UAE involved with Cambridge Analytica’s new company Emerdata? Does Erik Prince have any connection to Cambridge Analytica, even if only indirectly through Chun Shun Ko, Steve Bannon, or the Mercers? And what role has the UAE had in influencing the Trump administration?
Note: this timeline may be updated periodically to include new pertinent information. Each event below includes the source data link. Name variations (e.g. Chun Shun Ko Johnson vs Johnson Ko Chun-shun) reflect how names are presented by each source.
- In a deposition Erik Prince said he had previously hired George Nader to help Blackwater as a “business development consultant that we retained in Iraq” because the company was looking for contracts with the Iraqi government. New York Times
- After a series of civil lawsuits, criminal charges and Congressional investigations against Erik Prince’s company Blackwater and its former executives, Prince moved to the United Arab Emirates. New York Times.
- Sheik Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi hired Erik Prince to build a fighting force, paying $529 million to build an army. Additionally, Prince “worked with the Emirati government on various ventures…including an operation using South African mercenaries to train Somalis to fight pirates.” New York Times
- A movie called “The Project,” about Erik Prince’s UAE-funded private army in Somalia, was paid for by the Moving Picture Institute where Rebekah Mercer is on the board of Trustees. Gawker Website
- Erik Prince, who worked and lived in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, created Frontier Resource Group, an Africa-dedicated investment firm partnered with major Chinese enterprises. South China Morning Post
- The Russian Direct Investment Fund led by CEO Kirill Dmitriev, and the UAE’s Mubadala Development Company based in Abu Dhabi, launched a $2 billion co-investment fund to pursue opportunities in Russia. PR Newswire
- Starting in 2013, Donald Trump partnered with UAE developer Hussain Sajwani, also known as “the Donald of Dubai” to manage several golf courses built by Sajwani’s company Damac. Trump was paid $2 to $10 million before the golf courses opened. Sajwani offered to pay Trump an additional $2 billion to develop more properties. Later during the campaign Trump said he declined Sajwani’s offer, but it’s not known if his sons and the Trump Organization pursued the deal. New York Times
- January: Erik Prince was named Chairman of DVN Holdings, controlled by Hong Kong businessman Johnson Ko Chun-shun and Chinese state-owned Citic Group. DVN’s board proposed that the firm be renamed Frontier Services Group. South China Morning Post
- January: Erik Prince’s business partner, Dorian Barak, became a Non-Executive Director of Reorient Group Limited, an investment company where Ko Chun Shun Johnson was Chairman and Executive Director, and had done a $350 million deal with Jack Ma. 2014 Annual Report Forbes
- Erik Prince’s business partner Dorian Barak joined the board of Alufer Mining, “an independent mineral exploration and development company with significant bauxite interests in the Republic of Guinea.” (Prince would later testify that the purpose of his Seychelles trip was to discuss minerals and ‘bauxite’ with the UAE’s Mohammed bin Zayed). Alufer website
- Donald Trump purchased his flagship Turnberry golf course in Scotland from a Dubai based UAE state-owned company, Leisurecorp, for less than they paid for it. Arabian Business
- August: The John Bolton Super PAC founded by John Bolton, President Trump’s incoming national security adviser, hired Cambridge Analytica months after the firm was founded and while it was still harvesting Facebook data. In the two years that followed, Bolton’s super PAC spent nearly $1.2 million primarily for “survey research” and “behavioral microtargeting with psychographic messaging” using Facebook data. New York Times
- August/September: Erik Prince donated $150,000 to Make America Number 1, a pro-Trump PAC for which Robert Mercer has been the largest funder. Open Secrets
- October: Erik Prince donated $100,000 to the Trump Victory fund and $33,400 to the Republican National Committee. FEC
- October 11: Erik Prince did an interview with Breitbart News Daily describing Hillary Clinton’s “demonstrable links to Russia, particularly her complicity in “selling 20 percent of the United States’s uranium supply to a Russian state company.” Breitbart
- November 4: Erik Prince told Breitbart News Daily that “The NYPD wanted to do a press conference announcing the warrants and the additional arrests they were making” in the Anthony Weiner investigation, but received “huge pushback” from the Justice Department.” Prince described criminal culpability in emails from Weiner’s laptop related to “money laundering, underage sex, pay-for-play.” Breitbart
- December: The United Arab Emirate’s crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, visited Trump Tower and met with Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn, and Steve Bannon. In an unusual breach of protocol, the Obama administration was not notified about the visit. Washington Post
- Erik Prince told the House Intelligence Committee that Steve Bannon informed him about the December Trump Tower meeting with Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Prince also said he had sent Bannon unsolicited policy papers during the campaign. CNN
- One week prior to the meeting in the Seychelles, sources reported that George Nader met with Erik Prince and later sent him information on Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, contradicting Prince’s sworn testimony to the House Intelligence Committee that the meeting with Kirill Dmitriev in the Seychelles was unexpected. ABC News
- January 11: A meeting was held in the Seychelles with Erik Prince, the UAE’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Kirill Dmitriev, and George Nader, who had previously consulted for Prince’s Blackwater. According to Nader the meeting was to discuss foreign policy and to establish a line of communication between the Russian government and the incoming Trump administration. ABC News
- “After decades of close political and defense proximity with the United States, the United Arab Emirates have concluded three major agreements with Russia which could lead to its air force being ultimately re-equipped with Russian combat aircraft.” Defense Aerospace
- Elliott Broidy, a top GOP and Trump fundraiser with hundreds of millions of dollars in business deals with the UAE, sent George Nader a spreadsheet outlining a proposed $12.7 million campaign against Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood. Broidy also sent an email to George Nader referring to Secure America Now as a group he worked with. New York Times
- The largest funder of Secure America Now, a secretive group that creates anti-Muslim advertising, is Robert Mercer, who is also the largest funder of Cambridge Analytica. Open Secrets
- Jared Kushner’s father Charles Kushner met with Qatar’s minister of finance Ali Sharif Al Emadi to discuss financing of Kushner Companies’ 666 Fifth Avenue building. Intercept
- “Tom Barrack, a Trump friend who had suggested that Thani consider investing in the Kushner property, has said Charles Kushner was “crushed” when his son got the White House job because that prompted the Qataris to pull out.” Washington Post
- May 20–21: Donald Trump made his first overseas trip to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, accompanied by Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon and others. On his first day there Trump signed a joint “strategic vision” that included $110 billion in American arms sales and other investments. Washington Post
- May 23: Per U.S. officials, the UAE government discussed plans to hack Qatar. Washington Post
- May 24: Per U.S. officials, the UAE orchestrated the hack of Qatari government news and social media sites in order to post incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani. Washington Post
- Late May: Following the hack, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt banned Qatari media, broke relations and declared a trade and diplomatic boycott. Washington Post
- June 5: The Gulf Cooperation Council members Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt released coordinated statements accusing Qatar of supporting terrorist groups and saying that as a result they were cutting links to the country by land, sea and air. Washington Post
- June 6: Trump tweeted his support for the blockade against Qatar, while Rex Tillerson and James Mattis called for calm. The Guardian
- June 7: U.S. investigators from the FBI, who sent a team to Doha to help the Qatari government investigate the alleged hacking incident, suspected Russian hackers planted the fake news behind the Qatar crisis. CNN
- June 27: Rex Tillerson “reaffirmed his strong support for Kuwait’s efforts to mediate the dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt” and “leaders reaffirmed the need for all parties to exercise restraint to allow for productive diplomatic discussions.” U.S. Department of State Readout
- An aide to Tillerson was convinced Trump’s support for the UAE came from the UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, a close friend of Jared Kushner, known to speak to Kushner on a weekly basis. The American Conservative
- U.S. intelligence officials confirmed that the UAE orchestrated the hack of Qatari government news and social media sites with incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani. Washington Post
- July 21, 2017 — Nigel Oakes, the founder of SCL Group and director and person with significant control at SCL Insights, updates his ‘country of residence’ to United Arab Emirates. Company filing
- Emerdata Limited was incorporated in the UK with SCL/Cambridge Analytica’s Chairman Julian Wheatland and Chief Data Officer Alexander Tayler as significant owners. Company filing
- Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix and Steve Bannon both presented at the CSLA Investors’ Forum in Hong Kong. CLSA is part of Citic Securities, which is part of Citic Group, the majority owner of Erik Prince and Ko Chun Shun Johnson’s Frontier Services Group. Bloomberg Tweet
- October 6: Elliott Broidy, whose company Circinus has had hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts with the UAE, met Trump and suggested Trump meet with the UAE’s Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Broidy said Trump thought it was good idea. Broidy also “personally urged Mr. Trump to fire Mr. Tillerson, whom the Saudis and Emiratis saw as insufficiently tough on Iran and Qatar.” New York Times
- October 6: SCL Social Limited, part of SCL Group/Cambridge Analytica, was hired by UK company Project Associates for approximately $330,000 to implement a social media campaign for the UAE against Qatar, featuring the theme #BoycottQatar. FARA filing
- October 23: Steve Bannon spoke at a Hudson Institute event on “Countering Violent Extremism: Qatar, Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood,” and called the Qatar blockade “the single most important thing that’s happening in the world.” Bannon “bragged that president’s trip to Saudi Arabia in May gave the Saudis the gumption to lead a blockade against Doha.” The National Interest
- October 29: Jared Kushner returned from an unannounced trip to Saudi Arabia to discuss Middle East peace. Tom Barrack, a longtime friend and close Trump confidant said “The key to solving (the Israel-Palestinian dispute) is Egypt. And the key to Egypt is Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia.” Politico
- November 4: A week after Kushner’s visit Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman, launched an anti-corruption crackdown and arrested dozens of members of the Saudi royal family. Per three sources “Crown Prince Mohammed told confidants that Kushner had discussed the names of Saudis disloyal to the crown prince.” However, “Kushner, through his attorney’s spokesperson, denies having done so.” Another source said Mohammed bin Salman told UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed that Kushner was “in his pocket.” The Intercept
- November 15: Dmitry Rybolovlev sold his Leonardo Da Vinci painting ‘Salvatore Mundi’ for $450.3 million, setting a new record for the highest priced painting sold at auction. Rybolovlev — who had purchased a Florida home from Trump in 2008 for $95 million, more than $50 million above Trump’s purchase price — sold the Da Vinci painting for $322 million above his purchase price. The painting was bought by Saudi Prince Bader bin Abdullah on behalf of crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman. The price was driven up by a bidding war with the UAE’s Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, as both bidders feared losing the painting to the Qatari ruling family. After the purchase came under criticism, the Da Vinci painting was swapped with the UAE Ministry of Culture in exchange for an equally valued yacht. Daily Mail
- November 20: Erik Prince testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee and said that he arranged his trip to Seychelles with people who worked for Mohammed bin Zayed to discuss “security issues and mineral issues and even bauxite.” Prince then described how someone, maybe one of Mohammed bin Zayed’s brothers, told Prince he should meet with Kirill Dimitriev, describing him as “a Russian guy that we’ve done some business with in the past.” Erik Prince Transcript
- Buzzfeed broke a story on how Erik Prince had pitched the Trump administration on a plan to hire him to privatize the Afghan war and mine Afghanistan’s valuable minerals. A slide presentation of Prince’s pitch described Afghanistan’s rich deposits of minerals with an estimated value of $1 trillion, and described his plan as “a strategic mineral resource extraction funded effort.” Buzzfeed
- George Nader emailed a request to Elliott Broidy saying the leader of the UAE asked Trump to call the crown prince of Saudi Arabia to smooth over potential bad feelings created by the book “Fire and Fury.” Nader also reiterated to Broidy the desire of the ruler of the UAE to meet alone with Trump. Days later as Nader went to meet Broidy at Mar-a-lago to celebrate the anniversary of the inauguration, he was met at Dulles Airport by FBI agents working for Mueller. New York Times
January to March 2018
- Emerdata Limited added new directors Alexander Nix, Johnson Chun Shun Ko, Cheng Peng, Ahmad Al Khatib, Rebekah Mercer, and Jennifer Mercer. Johnson Chun Shun Ko is the business partner of Erik Prince. Ahmad Al Khatib is identified as ‘Citizen of Seychelles’. Shares were issued valued at 1,912,512 GBP. Emerdata article
- SCL/Cambridge Analytica founder Nigel Oakes told Channel 4 News it was his understanding that Emerdata had been set up the prior year to acquire all of Cambridge Analytica and all of SCL. Channel 4 News
- A website for a company called Coinagelabs.org displayed Cambridge Analytica as a partner. The team was led by CEO Sandy Peng, who previously worked at Reorient Capital, part of Reorient Group where Chun Shun Ko had been executive chairman. The site is no longer available. Twitter Thread
- March 13: A key goal of UAE political advisor George Nader, and Elliott Broidy who had hundreds of millions of dollars of business with the UAE, was accomplished, and Rex Tillerson was fired. New York Times
- March 19: Russia-friendly California representative Dana Rohrabacher, who has criticized the Magnitsky Act and who Prince had interned for in the 1990’s, attended a fundraiser hosted for him by Erik Prince and Oliver North, at Prince’s home in Virginia. The Intercept
- Sources reported that “Special Counsel Robert Mueller has obtained evidence that calls into question Congressional testimony given by Trump supporter and Blackwater founder Erik Prince last year, when he described a meeting in Seychelles with a Russian financier close to Vladimir Putin as a casual chance encounter “over a beer.”” ABC News
- John Bolton is set to begin as Donald Trump’s new National Security Advisor, replacing Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who had opposed Erik Prince’s plans to privatize the war in Afghanistan. Washington Post
- Robert Mercer, the largest funder of Cambridge Analytica, has given $5 million to Bolton’s super PAC since 2013. He was the Bolton super PAC’s largest donor during the 2016 election cycle, and so far, is also the largest donor for the 2018 election cycle, according to federal campaign finance filings. The Center for Public Integrity
- A source close to Erik Prince said, “now that McMaster will be replaced by neocon favorite John Bolton, and Tillerson with CIA director Mike Pompeo, who once ran an aerospace supplier, the dynamics have changed. Bolton’s selection, particularly, is “going to take us in a really positive direction.”” Forbes
- According to an SEC filing, Kushner Companies appears to have reached a deal to buy out its partner, Vornado Realty Trust, in the troubled 666 Fifth Avenue property. The Kushners had previously negotiated unsuccessfully with Chinese company Anbang Insurance Group, whose chairman has since been prosecuted and regulators have seized control of the company. The Kushners also negotiated unsuccessfully with the former prime minister of Qatar, and shortly afterwards Qatar was hacked and blockaded by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt. It is not clear who will provide the financing for the deal. New York Times
- February: $1.2 billion debt on Kushner Companies’ 666 Fifth Avenue building becomes due. Bloomberg
Updated September 11, 2018: added Donald Trump partnered with UAE developer Hussain Sajwani to manage several UAE golf courses starting in 2013, Donald Trump purchased Scottish Turnberry golf resort from Dubai state-owned company in 2014, Nigel Oakes changed his country of residence to the UAE in July 2017.