A key witness in former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian election interference has been charged with transporting child pornography last year, according to court documents.
George Nader, who had a previous criminal record on such charges, was charged in federal court in Virginia, and is expected to make an initial court appearance in New York.
Nader played an unusual role as a kind of liaison between Trump supporters, Middle East leaders and Russians interested in making contact with the incoming administration in early 2017.
Officials said Nader, 60, was charged by criminal complaint over material he was traveling with when he arrived at Washington-Dulles International Airport on Jan. 17, 2018, from Dubai. At the time, he was carrying a cellphone containing visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, officials said. The charges were unsealed after his arrest Monday morning at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
If convicted, Nader faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 40 years, officials said.
Nader was known to Trump associates as someone with political connections in the Middle East who could help them navigate the diplomacy of the region.
He helped arrange a meeting in the Seychelles in January 2017 between Erik Prince, a Trump supporter who founded the private security firm Blackwater, and a Russian official close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The purpose of the meeting was of particular interest to Mueller’s investigators, and some questions about it remain unanswered, even after Mueller issued a 448-page report on his findings.
A Lebanese American businessman, Nader was stopped by federal agents when he arrived at Dulles International Airport in January 2018. He was served with a subpoena, and eventually cooperated with authorities, providing grand jury testimony about his interactions with Trump supporters, according to people familiar with the matter.
Prince has insisted, both publicly and to Congress, that his meeting in the Seychelles with Kirill Dmitriev, the head of a Russian government-controlled wealth fund, was a chance encounter that occurred because he happened to be meeting with United Arab Emirates officials at a luxury hotel in the Indian Ocean nation.
At the time, Nader had been working for years as an adviser to the UAE. Nader told investigators it was a meeting planned in advance, according to people familiar with the investigation.
Nader was convicted 28 years ago of transporting child pornography, a case in which he received a reduced sentence after influential figures argued privately to the court that he was playing a valuable role in national security affairs — trying to free U.S. hostages then held in Lebanon.