Richard Gerson is a hedge fund manager and a close friend of the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Perhaps too close, if the recent interest in his activities by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is any indication.
Gerson, it turns out, has been connected to two controversial meetings between Trump associates and foreign agents that have come under scrutiny by Mueller’s team.
One is the infamous meeting in the Seychelles in January 2017 that was attended by Blackwater founder Eric Prince (brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos), Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (MBZ) of Abu Dhabi, Kirill Dmitriev (the head of a Russian government-controlled wealth fund), and George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who set up the meeting and has been cooperating with the Special Counsel’s investigators.
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That meeting has been studied closely by Mueller as a potential attempt to set up back-channel communications with Russia. Gerson’s attorneys deny that he was in the meeting with Eric Prince and the Russian oligarch, but text messages show that he did meet with the Crown Prince and Nader while he was in the Indian Ocean island nation.
The hedge fund manager’s spokesperson issued this statement on his behalf:
“Mr. Gerson was on vacation in the Seychelles prior to the meeting you reference. He knew nothing about the meeting, had left before the meeting was reported to have taken place, and has never met or communicated with Erik Prince,” the spokesman said.
Gerson, coincidentally or not, was also present at a previously undisclosed meeting in New York at the Four Seasons Hotel that took place a few weeks before the Seychelles conclave.
Besides Gerson, this meeting included Nader, Jared Kushner, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, former Trump political advisor Steve Bannon, former National Security Advisor Security Micheal Flynn, and Yousef Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the U.S., according to NBC News.
While Gerson doesn’t deny attending this meeting, he claims that his only role was to escort former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to the Four Seasons meeting, where Blair was to give the group a presentation on Israeli-Palestinian peace.
The presence of Blair at the meeting raises additional questions, particularly since this meeting took place during the transition period before Trump was inaugurated, yet in a major break of established diplomatic protocol, the Obama administration, which was still in office, was never notified about the meeting or even that MBZ was in the country.
All of this raised enough questions about Gerson’s true role in the meetings that “Mueller’s team has asked witnesses about Gerson’s proximity to key meetings, according to three people familiar with the questioning,” NBC News says.
The responses they received have not been disclosed, but two people familiar with the meetings say that they believed that Gerson was there because of his connections to the president’s son-in-law and that “UAE officials considered Gerson to be ‘Kushner’s guy.'”
Everyone associated with the meetings has declined to comment on the record about the revelations contained in the NBC News report.
The addition of a new connection to the Trump campaign as a potential participant in both of these formerly secret meetings only adds another piece to the puzzle that Mueller and his team are trying to put together. Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice in Wonderland would say.
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