FBI Probes Hack of Elliott Broidy, the Republican Operative at the Center of Scandal After Scandal
A Playmate payoff, facilitated by Trump fixer Michael Cohen. An unseemly battle between foreign powers to influence D.C. All of it appears tied to the hacking of Elliott Broidy.
The FBI is investigating the hacking of scandal-dogged Republican operative Elliott Broidy, The Daily Beast has learned. Three sources familiar with the investigation said the FBI has questioned multiple witnesses about the hack, which stole thousands of emails and allegedly resulted in scores of stories that embarrassed Broidy and snarled his business dealings. The hack appears to have released a deluge of shocking stories about Broidy.
Broidy is a venture capitalist who has long been a key donor and financier of Republican candidates. During the 2016 election, he was vice chair of a joint fundraising arm of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the Trump campaign. He was also formerly a deputy finance chairman of the RNC.
And he isn’t new to scandal. In 2009, Broidy pleaded guilty to giving almost $1 million to New York state pension fund officials in exchange for his company receiving $250 million to manage, as Reuters detailed. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and did not serve any time in prison.
Years later, he found himself in the headlines again—this time as a result of email leak after email leak detailing his questionable behavior. One Wall Street Journal story—which Broidy’s people believe to be based on stolen emails—showed he agreed to pay $1.6 million in a non-disclosure agreement to Playboy Playmate Shera Bechard who became pregnant while having an affair with him. According to the Journal, the deal barred the Playboy Playmate from revealing she had ever been with Broidy. It was set for her to be paid in quarterly installments over two years.
“I acknowledge I had a consensual relationship with a Playboy Playmate,” Broidy told the paper. “At the end of our relationship, this woman shared with me that she was pregnant. She alone decided that she did not want to continue with the pregnancy and I offered to help her financially during this difficult period.”
The story connects Broidy to another man who is no stranger to scandal, Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen. Both men were on the RNC finance committee at the same time, and Cohen reportedly helped set up the deal to pay off the Playmate. The lawyer for the Playmate was Keith Davidson—the same lawyer who helped set up the non-disclosure agreement between porn star Stormy Daniels and then-candidate Donald Trump in the final days of the 2016 campaign. The Wall Street Journal reported that both Trump’s payment to Stormy Daniels and Broidy’s payment to Shera Bechard were made through Michael Cohen’s Essential Consultants LLC.
CNBC reported that a Broidy spokesperson told them he believed the story broke because hackers stole communications about the payment and subsequently leaked them to reporters (the Broidy spokesperson later disputed that he made that claim to CNBC). After the story’s publication, Broidy resigned from his post with the RNC.
The hacked emails were also central to a recent Associated Press story detailing Broidy’s alleged efforts to lobby the Trump administration on behalf of the Saudis and Emiratis. Broidy worked with an associate named George Nader—who is reportedly a convicted pedophile and a cooperating witness for the Mueller probe—to push for the two Gulf states’ strategic ends in Washington. In exchange, according to the AP, both men expected generous defense contracts.
Nader and Broidy’s work for the Emiratis and Saudis has now been well-documented. A March 21 New York Times story reported that Nader told Broidy he boasted about his work to top leaders in Saudi and the U.A.E., describing Broidy’s work as “the Pivotal Indispensable Magical Role you are playing to help them.”
Nader “has been granted immunity in a deal for his cooperation with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, according to people familiar with the matter,” the Times noted, “and his relationship with Mr. Broidy may also offer clues to the direction of that inquiry.”
That story detailed the way Broidy and Nader worked together to try to influence the White House to take stances favorable to the Saudis and Emiratis, and in opposition to the Qataris. Last summer, the Saudis and Emiratis launched a blockade of Qatar over the tiny nation’s alleged support for terrorism. The Saudis are also angry about Qatar’s less-than-hostile relationship with its biggest regional adversary, Iran. In one reported communication, Broidy told Nader that he told Trump that then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “was performing poorly and should be relieved, but only at a good time, politically.” (The president later forced Tillerson out of his post.)
A spokesperson for Broidy told the Times that they believed the communications between the two men cited in the piece were stolen from Broidy by hackers.
Taken together, these stories have embarrassed Broidy and his business associates—and sent shockwaves through the Republican donor community.
(An FBI spokesperson declined to comment. So did a representative for Broidy.)
Broidy and his allies are currently suing the state of Qatar over the hacks. They allege that Qatari state-backed actors were responsible for hacking him, and described it in a complaint as “a sophisticated electronic warfare, espionage and disinformation campaign.” The suit alleges that the hackers targeted Broidy’s wife with a spearphishing scheme similar to the one that took down Clinton chairman John Podesta’s email account. The state of Qatar denies any culpability in the hack—even as Broidy’s friends have noted the similarity between this email exploitation and the one conducted against Yousef al-Otaiba—the UAE’s powerful ambassador to Washington and a potent diplomatic foe of the Qataris.
Broidy says the hacks started in mid-December of 2017 and targeted his allies and associates as well as himself. He singled out Nicholas Muzin, a former senior staffer to Sen. Ted Cruz and lobbyist for Qatar, in his lawsuit. The hacks came in the midst of a lobbying war that pitted Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Qatar. Broidy has done business and worked closely with Saudi and Emirati officials, and is an ardent critic of Qatar. The two gulf states are currently blockading Qatar, citing its alleged support for terrorists as the reason.
In an amended complaint of the lawsuit, filed May 24, Broidy alleged that Qatar state actors hired former CIA operatives and ex-British spies to “coordinate and implement the hack.” He also singled out a Qatari operative named Ahmed al-Rumaihi; to make matters even more byzantine, al-Rumaihi is linked to Michael Cohen—the man who helped facilitate Broidy’s Playmate payoff. Broidy blamed al-Rumaihi and others for using hacks to retaliate against him for his work to undermine Qatar’s standing in Washington.
The news that the FBI is investigating the hack adds another layer of drama to the legal fight between Broidy and the Qataris. And it means there’s another high-profile hacking wrapped up in a federal investigation.