WASHINGTON — A close friend of Jared Kushner has come under scrutiny by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for his proximity to some key meetings between Trump associates and foreign officials, according to five people familiar with the matter.
Richard Gerson, a hedge-fund manager in New York, was in the Seychelles in January 2017, less than two weeks before President Donald Trump’s inauguration and around the time Trump associate Erik Prince secretly met with Russian and United Arab Emirates officials, including Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, four of the people said.
While in the remote Indian Ocean island nation, Gerson met with Prince Mohammed — also known by his initials as MBZ — and communicated with a Lebanese-American businessman with close ties to the UAE, George Nader, who had organized the Erik Prince meeting, according to text messages Gerson sent at the time and a person familiar with the meeting.
Gerson had met Nader just weeks earlier when Trump officials, including Kushner, gathered for a secret meeting with MBZ at a Four Seasons hotel in New York, four people familiar with the meeting said. Trump’s incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn and chief political adviser Steve Bannon, as well as the UAE’s ambassador to the U.S., Yousef Otaiba, also attended the meeting.
Gerson’s presence in the Seychelles and at the Four Seasons meeting has not been previously reported.
Mueller’s interest in Gerson is another sign that he is examining connections between the UAE and Trump associates. Counterintelligence investigators have been scrutinizing UAE influence in the Trump campaign since before Mueller was appointed as special counsel, and the probe has continued in coordination with Mueller’s team, according to two people briefed on the investigation.
A spokesman for Gerson declined to say why Gerson met with MBZ in the Seychelles or communicated with Nader while there. The spokesman emphasized that Gerson did not participate in the meeting Erik Prince attended with Russian and Emirati officials.