Bannon Says He Rebuffed Qatari Efforts to Meet Him Last Year

(Bloomberg) -- Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former political strategist, said he was aware that Qatar was making efforts to meet with him last year as part of a broader campaign to influence the administration, but he said he rebuffed them.

“I knew the Qataris were looking to sit down with me,” Bannon said in an interview in Prague. “I never met with any of them.”

Efforts by Middle Eastern countries -- including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar -- to influence U.S. policy have come under greater scrutiny following recent reports that Elliott Broidy, a top Trump fundraiser, was positioning himself as an intermediary for the campaign and administration.

In an affidavit filed in a civil lawsuit in California, Bannon’s friend Jeff Kwatinetz, CEO of basketball league BIG3, alleged that Qatari investor Ahmed Al-Rumaihi had requested help setting up a meeting between Bannon and the Qatari government in January to offer to underwrite Bannon’s political work after leaving the White House.

When asked who told Bannon about an earlier effort by the Qataris to meet with him ahead of a May 2017 summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, he said “people around town.” After the summit, a four-nation bloc led by Saudi Arabia cut economic ties with Qatar.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has expanded his probe of Russian election meddling to include efforts by other countries, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to the New York Times. The report cited an August 2016 meeting between the president’s son, Don Jr., an Israeli media specialist and an emissary for Middle Eastern princes who offered to help the Trump campaign.

To deal with Mueller’s probe, Bannon said he thought the Trump White House needed “a Lanny Davis,” referring to Bill Clinton’s special counsel who steered the president through campaign finance investigations and the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Bannon added that his time at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. shaped his approach to the Mueller investigation.

“Coming from Goldman Sachs, where we always studied a model that works, I reviewed everything I got my hands on and realized that the Clintons had done it the right way,” Bannon said. “Lanny was the architect of that. I reached out to Lanny. He gave us a lot of pointers.”

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