A Mueller report witness pleads guilty to child pornography possession charges

This 1998 file frame from video provided by C-SPAN shows George Nader, then-president and editor of Middle East Insight. PHOTO: AP

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - A businessman who was a witness named in the Mueller report pleaded guilty on Monday (Jan 13) to child pornography possession and sex trafficking charges, according to court documents.

The businessman, George Nader, who has also acted as an informal adviser to the United Arab Emirates' crown prince, pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of child pornography and one count of sex trafficking a minor in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

On the possession of child pornography charge, Nader faces a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison, a fine of US$250,000 (S$336,000) and at least five years of supervised release, court documents said. He faces a maximum of 15 years in prison and a US$250,000 fine on the sex trafficking charge. He must register as a sex offender, the documents said.

His sentencing hearing is set for April 10, according to Mr Jonathan Jeffress, one of Nader's four lawyers. He declined to comment further.

A prosecutor for the US attorney's office for the Eastern District of Virginia declined to comment on Tuesday.

The case against Nader outlined his constant communication, since 2010, with someone about a mutual interest in child pornography, which was referred to as "wine", according to court documents. The records also detailed numerous times that Nader received or tried to acquire child pornography.

The documents also show that Nader admitted to transporting a minor boy from the Czech Republic to Washington, DC, in 2000 to engage in sexual activity with him.

In June, Nader, who is Lebanese-American, was arrested at Kennedy International Airport in New York. He had been found the previous year with iPhones containing sexually explicit images of young boys, according to court documents. The phones were discovered after he was stopped by federal agents and questioned about his work to arrange meetings between liaisons of foreign governments and Trump transition officials after the November 2016 presidential election.

Nader also made an arrangement to receive partial immunity in exchange for his testimony in the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the election.

At the time, prosecutors in the investigation zeroed in on Nader's relationship with Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian investment fund manager who is close to President Vladimir Putin of Russia. The Mueller report showed that Nader told prosecutors that Dmitriev said it was his preference as well as that of the Russian government that Mr Donald Trump win the election. Nader also said that Dmitriev asked him to help coordinate meetings with the Trump campaign.

After Mr Trump took office and in the early months of his administration, Nader attempted to influence foreign policy as an adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates, and helped steer the White House to take a hard line against Qatar. Nader also often met Mr Stephen Bannon and Mr Jared Kushner, who were both senior advisers to Mr Trump at the time.

In December, Nader was among eight people charged with conspiring to conceal more than US$3.5 million to groups supporting Mrs Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. In 1991, Nader was convicted of a single count of transportation of child pornography, according to court documents.

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