WASHINGTON — The saga of Elliott Broidy, the disgraced Republican donor, investor, and defense contractor, has taken yet another twist.
The Associated Press broke the news Monday that a federal grand jury in New York is probing whether Broidy used his role as a vice chair of President Trump’s inauguration committee to generate business for his companies, including a private defense firm. According to the AP, a subpoena issued in April by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn “seeks records relating to 20 individuals and businesses” with “connections to Broidy, his investment and defense contracting firms, and foreign officials he pursued deals with.”
The subpoena reportedly focused on dealings between Broidy and his businesses and officials from at least two foreign countries, Angola and Romania.
As Rolling Stone reported earlier this year, Broidy’s story is a case study in the swampy creatures around Trump and his administration who saw the 45th president’s election as the business opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to use their proximity to power for their own ends.
Broidy’s lawyers have denied that Broidy used his position in Trump’s orbit to enrich himself or benefit his businesses.
Broidy, who is based in Los Angeles, was a prominent financier and George W. Bush supporter in the 2000s known throughout the Republican Party for the elaborate fundraisers he threw at his Bel-Air mansion. In 2009, then-New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo charged Broidy for effectively bribing the New York State comptroller in exchange for a $250 million investment in Broidy’s private equity fund. Broidy pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and largely disappeared from Republican politics. He resurfaced in the 2016 presidential race with donations to several other GOP contenders before he joined the Trump campaign’s fundraising team.
After Trump’s victory, Broidy was rewarded for his support with a coveted spot on the incoming president’s inauguration committee, which raised a record-setting $107 million. (Federal prosecutors reportedly have a separate investigation into the expenses incurred by Trump’s inauguration team.)
According to documents previously obtained by Rolling Stone, Broidy pitched foreign leaders from Angola and Romania on services offered by his private defense-contracting firm, Circinus, at the same time he was helping organize Trump’s inauguration. Broidy invited two Angolan officials to Trump’s inauguration (using his own letterhead) and attached to the same invitation a proposed contract with Broidy’s company. Broidy also finagled a brief meeting between Trump and senior officials with the Romanian government — a country with which Broidy and his company were also pursuing business deals.
Broidy’s lawyers denied to the AP that he or his company had financial dealings with any Romanian officials or their agents while insisting that the contract between Circinus and Angola had nothing to do with Broidy’s role on Trump’s inauguration committee. “Any implication to the contrary is completely false,” the lawyers said in a statement.
Broidy’s deal-making eventually caught the attention of Congress: In April 2018, Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) asked then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to open an investigation into whether Broidy and his companies violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bans Americans from offering “anything of value” in an effort to influence a foreign official. The AP reported that Angola and Romanian individuals are among the 20 people or companies mentioned in the subpoena related to Broidy’s business dealings.
Many of the details about Broidy’s business dealings came from private emails, business records, and other documents leaked to members of the media. Broidy alleges he, his wife, and his company were hacked by agents of a hostile foreign government who released the emails and documents in an effort to damage his reputation and as retribution for his advocacy around President Trump’s foreign policy. One of the key revelations from Broidy’s leaked documents was his friendship with George Nader, a Lebanese American fixer and onetime adviser to the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) whose name appears dozens of times in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report.
According to the leaked documents, Broidy and Nader worked together throughout 2017 to help shape the Trump administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East, urging a closer relationship with Saudi Arabia and the UAE and a crackdown on the small but wealthy Gulf nation of Qatar. (Lawyers for Broidy have denied that his actions came at the direction of a foreign nation and have argued that they didn’t need to be disclosed under the U.S.’s foreign lobbying law.)
In June, in a separate investigation, Nader was charged with transporting child pornography by the Justice Department and, if convicted, faces a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of 40 years in prison. Broidy’s ties to Nader are reportedly under further scrutiny, as Nader’s name is included in the subpoena sent by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn.
In March 2018, Broidy sued the state of Qatar and an American political operative for allegedly orchestrating the hack-and-dump operation. He has also filed suit against several more U.S.-based consultants whom he claims participated in the alleged hacking. (Qatar has denied any role. A judge dropped Qatar from the suit in 2018.)
Not long after he first sued Qatar, Broidy resigned his post from the Republican National Committee’s prestigious finance committee after it emerged he had agreed to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy Playmate who said he had impregnated her. The former Playmate, Shera Bechard, later sued Broidy after he stopped making payments as part of their hush-money agreement, which was revealed by the Wall Street Journal. The case is ongoing.