Qatari investor admits Trump Tower meetings

Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, a Qatari investor referenced in a series of tweets from Michael Avenatti, confirmed to CNN through a spokesperson that he did attend meetings at Trump Tower in December 2016. CNN's MJ Lee reports.

Posted: May 16, 2018 12:46 PM
Updated: May 16, 2018 12:59 PM

A Qatari investor referenced in a series of tweets from Michael Avenatti this week confirmed to CNN through a spokesperson on Tuesday that he did attend meetings at Trump Tower in December 2016.

The stated reason: Ahmed Al-Rumaihi wanted face time with Trump transition officials.

"Mr. Al-Rumaihi was at Trump Tower on December 12, 2016. He was there in his then role as head of Qatar Investments, an internal division of QIA, to accompany the Qatari delegation that was meeting with Trump transition officials on that date," said a spokesperson for Sport Trinity, a company that Al-Rumaihi co-owns. "He did not participate in any meetings with Michael Flynn, and his involvement in the meetings on that date was limited."

The spokesperson did not elaborate on which Trump transition officials attended those meetings or the substance of the meetings.

After the story published, Qatar's media attaché in Washington, Jassim Al-Thani, explained in a statement that the meetings with the incoming administration in December 2016 were to discuss "many critical areas, including: regional security, military cooperation, counterterrorism, and economic partnership."

Al-Thani said Al-Rumaihi "was present at Trump Tower but did not participate in any meetings" with the government delegation.

A person familiar with the Qatari delegation's meetings at Trump Tower that day said, "There were several meetings that took place between the delegation and Trump transition officials. During one, Michael Cohen briefly popped in."

The statement is Al-Rumaihi's first acknowledgment of why he was at Trump Tower on December 12, 2016, since Avenatti, a lawyer for Stormy Daniels, made an issue of it in his tweets. It also sheds new light on Cohen's conduct during the Trump transition as he was pitching to clients on his proximity to the President-elect.

Avenatti alleged Al-Rumaihi had met with Cohen and Flynn, Trump's longtime attorney and former national security adviser, respectively. Avenatti also claimed Al-Rumaihi boasted about bribing administration officials in a "sworn declaration filed in court" -- a reference to a declaration from Jeff Kwatinetz, an entertainment executive who is currently in a legal battle with Al-Rumaihi.

"Why was Ahmed Al-Rumaihi meeting with Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn in December 2016 and why did Mr. Al-Rumaihi later brag about bribing administration officials according to a sworn declaration filed in court?" Avenatti tweeted.

Kwatinetz said in the filing that Al-Rumaihi, after agreeing to invest in Kwatinetz's basketball league, repeatedly showed interest in meeting Steve Bannon, Kwatinetz's friend and President Donald Trump's former chief strategist. Kwatinetz and Al-Rumaihi are engaged in a business dispute over Kwatinetz's basketball league, BIG3.

In one particular instance in January 2018, Kwatinetz alleged Al-Rumaihi "wanted me to convey a message from the Qatari government to Steve Bannon" and hoped Kwatinetz would set up a meeting between Al-Rumaihi, the Qatari government and Bannon. He was asked to "tell Steve Bannon that Qatar would underwrite all of his political efforts in return for his support."

Kwatinetz wrote in the filing he was "offended" and "appalled" by the request. In response, Al-Rumaihi allegedly laughed and responded that Kwatinetz shouldn't be naive.

"Do you think (Michael) Flynn turned down our money?" Al-Rumaihi responded, according to Kwatinetz, referring to Trump's former campaign adviser and White House national security adviser.

A spokesperson for Sport Trinity said Monday, "Simply put, the statements in Mr. Kwatinetz's declaration are pure Hollywood fiction. 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. Mr. Kwatinetz's commercial dispute with Sport Trinity is meritless."

And Kai Henry, the former chief creative officer at Kwatinetz's basketball league, in an interview Tuesday with CNN disputed some of the key statements of Kwatinetz's declaration in court, including the suggestion that Al-Rumaihi repeatedly brought up Bannon to Kwatinetz.

"It seems that this is a lot of made-up stories in multiple pieces trying to be put together by Jeff," Henry said. "Jeff was the only one talking about Steve Bannon from any standpoint that I've seen. And that was on a daily basis -- he would brag about his relationship and his access to the White House before Bannon left the White House. ... He was almost infatuated with Bannon."

In an interview with Don Lemon on "CNN Tonight" on Monday, Avenatti raised questions about why Cohen appeared to have been involved in Qatari nationals visiting Trump Tower after the election.

"At this time, Michael Cohen has no position in the transition team in the new administration, he's not a registered lobbyist, he's not a registered foreign agent," Avenatti said. "He ultimately doesn't have any role in the administration. He's not a foreign dignitary, he's not addressed with meeting foreign dignitaries in connection with the new administration. So, Don, what's he doing?"

This story has been updated.

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